Long time broadcaster and former major league baseball player, Joe Garagiola died, March 23, 2016, at the age of 90. Garagiola first co-hosted NBC‘s Today Show from 1967 to 1973. He returned in 1990, for two more years. The Today Show notes he was also the “voice of NBC’s Game of the Week from 1974 to 1988, and covered the World Series.” Between 1968 and 1988, he served as a guest host on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a dozen times.
Garagiola was an MLB catcher in the 1940s and 1950s, as part of the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants organizations. The Today Show‘s article about his passing says, “Garagiola went on to become a sports broadcaster for the MLB and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 before retiring in February 2013 at the age of 87.” As a broadcaster, Garagiola was known for his self-deprecating humor, particularly about his baseball prowess.
After he left NBC Sports, Garagiola served up color commentary for the Arizona Diamondbacks, from 1988 to 2012. His son, Joe Garagiola, Jr. was that organization’s GM from 1997 to 2005. The team marked Garagiola’s passing, in this tweet.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 23, 2016
Today Show‘s co-anchor, Matt Lauer, also tweeted about the news.
God I'll miss Joe Garagiola.
Was part of the soul of our show, and told me stories that made me laugh till I cried.
Hall of fame person.
— Matt Lauer (@MLauer) March 23, 2016
The Arizona Diamondbacks also released a full statement, via this press release:
Joe Garagiola (Feb. 12, 1926 – March 23, 2016) passed away this morning following an unparalleled career in baseball spanning from his playing days in the 1940s to his role as a D-backs broadcaster through 2013. The 2014 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient and 1991 Ford C. Frick Award winner was known for his nine-year playing career followed by a Hall of Fame broadcast career, as well as the many charitable endeavors that spanned his lifetime.
He is survived by his wife Audrie, eight grandchildren and children Steve, Gina and Joe Jr., who served as the D-backs General Manager from 1997-2005.
The following is a statement from his family:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of this amazing man who was not just beloved by those of us in his family, but to generations of baseball fans who he impacted during his eight decades in the game. Joe loved the game and passed that love onto family, his friends, his teammates, his listeners and everyone he came across as a player and broadcaster. His impact on the game, both on and off the field, will forever be felt.”
“Joe was one-of-a-kind and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know him and his family,” said D-backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick. “His sense of humor certainly stood out to all of us, but perhaps more importantly, the mark he left in the community around him will carry on his legacy for generations to come.”
“Joe was so special to everyone at the D-backs and had an aura about him that you could feel the moment you met him,” said D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall. “Those of us who were lucky enough to know him personally were profoundly aware that the lovable personality that fans saw on TV was only surpassed by who he was in person and the way he treated everyone around him.”
Garagiola played nine seasons in the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals (1946-51), Pittsburgh Pirates (1951-53), Chicago Cubs (1953-54) and New York Giants (1954). He reached the World Series as a rookie in 1946 and went 6-for-19 in five Fall Classic games, including a four-hit, three-RBI performance in Game 4 vs. the Red Sox.
Following his career, he had a nearly 30-year association with NBC including six years alongside Vin Scully as the No. 1 broadcast team that called the “Game of the Week,” All-Star Games and World Series. His time at NBC also included many years at the Today Show (1967-73, 1990-92) and as a guest host on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
Among his contributions to the game were the creation of the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) and the National Spit Tobacco Education Program which have impacted countless people around the world.
The Broadcast Wing & TV booth at Chase Field was named after Garagiola in 2009 and in 2012, Joe Garagiola Field was dedicated in Flagstaff.
A funeral service will be held in his hometown of St. Louis and a local memorial will take place in Arizona at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to B.A.T. or the St. Peter Indian Mission, another cause he held dearly.
We invite you to remember Mr. Garagiola and his career, below.