BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The baseball world is in mourning upon the news of Joe Garagiola’s passing on Wednesday morning at the age of 90 (Feb. 12, 1926 – March 23, 2016).
Garagiola is survived by his wife, Audrie, eight grandchildren, and children Steve, Gina and Joe Jr., who served as Diamondbacks General Manager from 1997-2005.
The following is a statement from Garagiola’s 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,” Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick said. “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 Diamondbacks 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 made it to the World Series as a rookie in 1946, and went 6-for-19 in five games, including a four-hit, three-RBI showing in Game 4 vs. the Red Sox.
Following his baseball career, Garagiola worked for NBC for nearly 30 years, 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. Garagiola’s time at NBC also included two stints at the Today Show (1967-73, 1990-92), and as a guest host on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
Among his other 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.
In 2009, the broadcast wing and television booth at Chase Field was named after Garagiola, and in 2012, Joe Garagiola Field was dedicated in Flagstaff, Ariz.
A funeral service will be held in Garagiola’s hometown of St. Louis, and a local memorial will take place in Arizona at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to B.A.T. or the St. Peter Indian Mission, another cause Garagiola held dear to his heart.