Joe Garagiola, MLB Announcer and Player, Dies at Age 90

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Joe Garagiola, MLB Announcer and Player, Dies at Age 90
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Joe Garagiola Sr., who spent nine seasons in MLB before moving on to a storied broadcasting career, died Tuesday. He was 90.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of baseball legend and former #Dbacks broadcaster Joe Garagiola," the Arizona Diamondbacks said in a Twitter statement.   

Garagiola batted .257 with 42 home runs and 255 runs batted in across his nine seasons, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants. A St. Louis native, he joined the Cardinals' radio broadcast booth—where he truly found his calling—after retirement.

Garagiola's broadcasting career spanned parts of seven decades. He spent a majority of his career calling baseball games for NBC, serving both as a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator. His work with Vin Scully carried the network throughout much of the 1980s, and the pair called multiple All-Star Games and World Series together. The two famously called Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run in one of the most iconic moments in MLB history.

"Scully and Garagiola are considered by many to be the best baseball announcing team ever," Larry Stewart wrote in a 1987 Los Angeles Times profile of the two.

"Joe was remarkably prepared for every single broadcast. He was professional from head to toe. And fun to work with, as you can well imagine," Scully said in a 2013 broadcast after Garagiola's retirement, via Eric Stephen of SB Nation's True Blue LA.

After leaving NBC after the 1988 season, Garagiola largely stepped away from full-time duties. He briefly worked for the California Angels in 1990 and then was an occasional broadcaster for the Diamondbacks from 1998 through the 2012 season. While he never worked a full-time schedule, Garagiola became a beloved member of the community in Arizona—staying long after his son Joe Garagiola Jr. left the organization.

"What I tried to do was talk baseball. And the big thing I learned was to stay with the ball, stay with the game," Garagiola said of his broadcasting style, per Michael Hiestand of USA Today. "Statistics weren't my line. Statistics are like a lamppost for a drunk. If you don't know what to do, say what somebody hit in Paduka. But who really cares?"

In addition to his work in baseball, Garagiola had a notable career in other forms of media. He served as a panelist on the Today Show for nearly a decade (split across two stints), was the host of a number of game shows and even was the guest host of The Tonight Show at times in place of Johnny Carson.

The Baseball Hall of Fame honored Garagiola twice, first in 1991 with the Ford C. Frick Award and again in 2014 with the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. He is one of just three men in history to win the Buck O'Neil award.

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