Former ballplayer, sportscaster Joe Garagiola dead at age 90

Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:42pm EDT
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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Former Major League catcher Joe Garagiola, who achieved more lasting fame as a sports announcer and television host after his retirement from baseball, died on Wednesday at the age of 90.

"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," his family said in a statement released by the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

Garagiola was born in 1926 and grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood in St. Louis across the street from childhood friend Yogi Berra, a fellow catcher who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the New York Yankees.

“Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street,” Garagiola once quipped.

Although often making light of his modest baseball accomplishments, Garagiola played nine seasons with four Major League teams and won a World Series championship with his hometown Cardinals in his rookie season in 1946.

Following his athletic career, he spent decades as a broadcaster, announcing baseball games on radio and television. He also did two stints as a co-host on NBC's "Today" Show.

In May 1968, he was guest host of "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson the night that Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney appeared as guests.

He was honored with the Ford C. Frick broadcasters award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2014, he received the Hall of Fame's Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. His broadcast career with the Diamondbacks ended in 2013.   Continued...

Los Angeles Dodgers head coach Joe Torre (L) talks to Joe Garagiola Sr. before playing the Chicago White Sox in a MLB spring training game in Glendale, Arizona March 6, 2010.     REUTERS/Rick Scuteri