I recognize that this post will mean nothing to millennials and others who never knew what it was like to sit down in front of the TV on Saturday afternoon to watch the one baseball game you’d likely see all week.
But Joe Garagiola died today. He was 90.
The Hall of Fame broadcaster succeeded the legendary Curt Gowdy on the NBC game of the week broadcasts, teaming up with Tony Kubek. He was also the host of the Today show in the ’70s. He was a game show panelist, talk show guest, and star of commercials. In the ’70s, you couldn’t turn on one of the three channels you could probably receive on your TV without seeing his face.
“I would contact him periodically over the years, often when the news was really bad, to remind myself that there still are unpretentious, generous, honorable people in the world,” A.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic wrote this afternoon. “And it worked. Every single time.”
Garagiola spent years helping to make huge improvements to the St. Peter Indian Mission School on the Gila River Reservation.
Before professional baseball ballplayers became instant millionaires, a lot of them struggled after their playing days. Garagiola founded the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), which has awarded almost $30 million in grants to over 3,000 individuals.
There have been dozens of other projects, other recipients of his time and generosity. Most he kept to himself.
He received the 2014 Buck O’Neill Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame for “extraordinary efforts to enhance baseball’s positive impact on society.”
A while back he told me, “They don’t remember you for what you did or what you collected. It’s how you helped people. I always tell young ballplayers to have fun. You should have fun in whatever you do. But helping people is the important stuff.”
He was the announcer for the Arizona Diamondbacks until he retired before the 2013 season. By then, he’d been in broadcasting for 57 years.