Hall of Fame Broadcaster, Joe Garagiola, called it a career after 57 years in the broadcast booth. At his press conference on Wednesday, the 87 years old Garagiola displayed the trademark humor that made him a 1991 Ford Frick Award winner. He regaled the assembled media with stories from his career.
Following his retirement as a player in 1954, Garagiola was a regular guest on “The Tonight Show.” He was a co-host of the “Today Show.” Most recently, he had served as an occasional analyst on Diamondbacks’ television broadcasts.
He had surgery in 2009 to remove a brain tumor, but Garagiola said that his health was not a factor in his decision to leave the broadcast booth. It was a matter of wanting to have more time for his wife, Audrey, to whom he has been married for 63 years.
“I’ve often said it’s the best catch I ever made,” Garagiola said of his wife during the press conference (available on MLB.com). “The wife is the one who really makes it for you. She’s the one who took care of the kids. I was the guy that was on the plane flying here, there, everywhere, coming home and telling her about it, and she’d just smile and say, ‘That’s great.’”
Diamondbacks’ president/CEO Derrick Hall called it “the saddest day of his baseball career.” “It was a rather emotional meeting, for sure,” Hall said. “But he’s not going anywhere. He’s still going to be around, he’s still going to be at the ballpark, he’s always going to be an important member of our family.” Garagiola’s son, Joe Jr., was the team’s first general manager. He built the 2001 World Series championship team, and watching his son do that was Garagiola’s most cherished baseball memory.
“You guys took me into the family and made me feel like I was part of it at the beginning,” he said. “I don’t deserve a lot of things that have happened with me, but I remember Jack Benny saying he had arthritis and he didn’t deserve that either.”
That was just one of the funny lines from Garagiola. Here are a few other memorable lines:
• Garagiola’s childhood friend Yogi Berra recently moved into a retirement community.
“I said, ‘How’s it going, Yog?’ And he said, ‘It’s all right, but geez they’ve got a lot of old people here.’”
• When traded to the New York Giants in 1954, Garagiola was behind the plate when the Cardinals’ Stan Musial stepped up to it.
“This was the fourth team I was traded to when there was only eight in the league and that told me that I was either wanted, or modeling uniforms,” Garagiola said. “I didn’t know which. And the great Stan Musial comes up to hit, and apparently he didn’t see the papers, so he taps the plate and he looks at me, and he backs out and says, ‘What the heck are you doing there?’ I said, ‘I just got traded, Stan.’ He said, ‘You did, when?’ I said, ‘This morning.’ He kind of looked stunned, and he said, ‘Why don’t you quit?’ You know what I said to him? I said, ‘Now?’”
• Speaking of a pitcher with a funky delivery, Garagiola said, “He threw nothing but elbows and fingernails at you, and pretty soon the ball came.”
• While catching for a pitcher who only threw a fastball, Garagiola became confused when the pitcher kept shaking off the sign he was putting down. He finally went to the mound and asked the pitcher what was going on, and the pitcher told Garagiola that he wanted to throw a slider.
“I said, ‘You don’t have a slider.’ He said, ‘That’s why I’ll get him out, he won’t be looking for it.’”
• When Garagiola became teary-eyed during the news conference, he looked toward manager Kirk Gibson in the crowd and said that if he couldn’t hold it together, he was going to ask Gibson to come up and finish for him.
“I’d be happy to,” Gibson said. “You’d be happy to?” Garagiola quipped. “Tell your face you’d be happy to, then, would ya?”