Remembering An Average Joe
25 March 2016 Views From The Booth
Greetings from the Booth! Not sure who to root for now in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, now that my WVU Mountaineers were shown the door by Stephen F. Austin in the opening round last Friday. I guess the natural choice would be UVA, since I now live and work in the Old Dominion. But I’ve never been much of a Cavalier fan, so I’m thinking maybe someone from the Big 12, and since the Mounties have beaten Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma, I could make myself feel better by saying “we beat the champion.” Anyway, the early exit by WVU made for a depressing weekend in which I watched only 1 other game, Kentucky vs. Indiana, which was a great clinic in how college basketball is meant to be played.
On to this week’s topic. My passion growing up was baseball. I lived and breathed our National Pastime. Everything revolved around baseball. Even my math skills were honed by learning how to compute batting averages and ERA’s. That passion for baseball was fueled by some of the great broadcasters of my era: the great duo of Chuck Thompson & Bill O’Donnell, Shelby Whitfield, and many voices from far away on my late-night AM dial.
So it is with sadness that I read this morning of the passing at age 90 of Joe Garagiola. Joe was part of the NBC Game of the Week on Saturdays, working with Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, and Vin Scully. Garagiola was a milder version of Bob Uecker, always self-effacing and full of great stories to fill the innings, even when the game itself wasn’t so great.
You may know that Joe actually had a 9-year career in the majors, but you may not know that in the 1946 World Series, as a rookie, Garagiola batted 6-for-19, including a 4-for 5 game. In that series, he actually out-hit the great Ted Williams, who went 5-for 25. But he never fully realized his potential, and eventually went into broadcasting. Garagiola got to call Mickey Mantle’s 500th home run, called 3 All-Star Games, 3 World Series’, and won numerous awards for broadcasting.
But it’s his storytelling that I remember most. He once said that he was traded so often that he thought he was modelling uniforms for Major League Baseball. Some of his other memorable quotes are:
“The wind always seems to blow against catchers when they’re running.”
“I went through baseball as a player to be named later.”
(my favorite) “I guess you don’t really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful you had a long lease.”
“Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curve ball straightened out.”
If that last quote sounds like a Yogi-ism, it’s worth noting that growing up in the Italian-American neighborhood known as “The Hill” in St. Louis, Joe’s boyhood friend was none other than Yogi-Berra. Joe Garagiola now joins Yogi in Baseball Heaven, where things just got funnier.
RIP Joe Garagiola.
That’s it from the Booth! We’ll talk more baseball next week as we celebrate Opening Day. GO HORNETS!