I was very saddened to hear of the passing of former big league catcher, and long time broadcaster Joe Garagiola. He lived a long, and wonderful life, to the ripe old age of 90. His passing comes just months after the death of his childhood friend and Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra. While I am far too young to have ever remembered Garagiola as a ball player, his voice along with fellow broadcasting legend, Vin Scully, are burned into my memory for all of eternity. Growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest, limited my exposure to big market professional baseball.
The closest big league team to where I grew up, were the lowly Seattle Mariners. In my early years, the Ken Griffey, Jr. era was still a few years away, and the lone star of a struggling franchise was Alvin Davis. We would get a handful of games per week on local television, one team after another, taking turns paddling “Our team”, but I was no Mariners’ fan. My allegiance belong to the New York Yankees, and the only chances I would get to watch them (aside from travelling to Seattle each August), was through two avenues: the NBC Game of the Week and ABC’s Monday Night Baseball.
As a child, each Saturday I would anxiously wait and hope, that the Yankees would be on t.v. that week, and if they were–the Yankees of Rickey, Willie, Donnie and Dave, would be brought to me by Vin and Joe. I fell in love with their storytelling, the tales of years gone by, and how the modern player compared to the greats of Mantle, Mays, and Snider. Today, I still get the MLB Extra Innings package, just so I can enjoy my small piece of childhood, and listening to Vin bring us Dodgers baseball. But for most of my childhood, I could count on Vin and Joe bringing the game–which seemed millions of miles away from a small farming town in Oregon, to life in the big city of big boy baseball.
When I got home from work yesterday, and learned of Joe’s passing, I thought about his family, his former teammates, and his friends. I then thought about those Saturday afternoons of games from Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, or Riverfront Stadium, knowing I was in for several hours of enjoyment, as I learned about the modern game, along with the glorious history of our national pastime. I then pulled up You Tube, and watched several portions of archived games that my favorite broadcast duo would bring to the masses thanks to the NBC network.
As time moved on, the game of the week went away, MLB broadcasts shifted to ESPN with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller, and to Fox with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, I longed for the days of Vin and Joe. I tell my little boy, who is now six years of age, how it used to be when it came to watching baseball. As we all know, baseball is available 24/7/365. Almost to the point of oversaturation. When I was growing up, it was a treat to be able to watch the Yankees on national television, and Joe Garagiola, with his analysis and insight to the game, helped provide the soundtrack of some of the best memories of my childhood. Thank you Mr. Garagiola for turning a young boy onto the game, and making him a lifelong fan of everything the game encompasses. Rest in Peace sir.