Craig Calcaterra

Joe Garagiola
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Baseball and broadcast legend Joe Garagiola dies at 90


Baseball and broadcasting legend and institution Joe Garagiola has passed away at the age of 90.

Childhood friends with the recently-departed Yogi Berra in St. Louis, Garagiola was in fact the much more highly sought-after prospect. He was signed by the hometown Cardinals in 1942 and made his big league debut in 1946. He would play nine seasons in the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals (1946-51), Pittsburgh Pirates (1951-53), Chicago Cubs (1953-54) and New York Giants (1954). He reached the World Series as a rookie in 1946 and went 6-for-19, including a four-hit, three-RBI performance in Game 4 vs. the Red Sox.

While he had a fine career — he was a .257/.354/.385 hitter in a primarily backup capacity — he we would become far better known through broadcasting, the vast majority of it with NBC. He spent six years alongside Vin Scully as the No. 1 broadcast team for NBC’s “Game of the Week” and called multiple All-Star Games and World Series. Beyond sports, he hosted the Today Show from 1967 through 1973 and again from 1990 through 1992. He was likewise a guest host on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. In his later years he called Arizona Diamondbacks games — the club for whom his son served as general manager — last doing so in 2013.

Garagiola was the author of three top-selling books which consisted primarily of baseball anecdotes and which helped define his post-playing career as one of the game’s consummate storytellers: Baseball is a Funny Game (1960)It’s Anybody’s Ballgame (1980) and Just Play Ball (2007). He was the 2014 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient and 1991 Ford C. Frick Award winner.

His family released the following statement this afternoon:

“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. Joe loved the game and passed that love onto family, his friends, his teammates, his listeners and everyone he came across as a player and broadcaster. His impact on the game, both on and off the field, will forever be felt.”

The Diamondbacks likewise released statements, first from owner Ken Kendrick:

“Joe was one-of-a-kind and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know him and his family. His sense of humor certainly stood out to all of us, but perhaps more importantly, the mark he left in the community around him will carry on his legacy for generations to come.”

D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said:

“Joe was so special to everyone at the D-backs and had an aura about him that you could feel the moment you met him. Those of us who were lucky enough to know him personally were profoundly aware that the lovable personality that fans saw on TV was only surpassed by who he was in person and the way he treated everyone around him.”

UPDATE: Major League Baseball has issued a statement on Garagiola. And here is a statement from NBC Sports’ Bob Costas:

Joe Garagiola led a truly extraordinary American life. From growing up on The Hill in St. Louis with Yogi Berra, to getting four hits in a World Series game for his hometown team in 1946, to becoming one of the most prominent baseball broadcasters and popular television personalities of his time, and too much more to list.

It’s not enough to merely say that Joe was a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, although he was. Beyond that, he had a genuine impact on the craft. He was among the first to bring a humorous, story-telling style to the booth. He didn’t fit any one category. He was a very good play-by-play man, but no matter his role, he was always both anecdotal and analytical.

But Joe’s profile went beyond baseball. With his engaging personality and easy way with people, he wound up as the long-time co-host of TODAY and a frequent guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. He was versatile enough to also host game shows, the Rose and Orange Bowl parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and even the Westminster Dog Show.

I truly can’t think of anyone whose primary profession was sports broadcaster who did as many different things on a national basis; and was, at the peak of his career, any better known by sports fans and non-sports fans alike. He was also a passionate and warm-hearted man who it was my pleasure to know and call a friend.

Alex Rodriguez to retire after the 2017 season


This is not necessarily shocking given his age and the state of his contract, which runs for this season and next, but Alex Rodriguez has made it official: he’s retiring after the 2017 season.

A-Rod has played 21 seasons in the bigs. He has a career line of .297/.382/.554 with 3,070 hits, 687 homers and 2,055 RBI. Those last two totals place him fourth on the all-time home run list, 75 homers behind Barry Bonds, and third on the all-time RBI list, 238 behind Hank Aaron.

The highs and lows of his career are well known, of course. He’s a three-time MVP Award winner and led the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title. He’s likewise one of baseball’s greatest pariahs due to his PED history which ultimately led to his suspension for the entire 2014 season. The latter will likely keep him out of the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible to be voted on. At least for several years or barring some fundamental change in the way in which the BBWAA approaches the cases of players who used PEDs. If not for all of that he’d be an obvious first ballot inductee. Indeed, it were not for all of that, he’d be widely considered one of the greatest to ever play the game.

For now we only get two more seasons to enjoy A-Rod. Or two more seasons to kick him around. It all depends on your point of view, I suppose.

MLB plays the Vin Scully Sympathy Card to guilt cable companies on Dodgers broadcasts

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at a meeting of MLB owners, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. Owners held their last meeting before the likely start of collective bargaining, where revenue sharing, the luxury tax, and the international amateur draft are among the topics management may push for change. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

This morning we wrote about how the Dodgers and Time Warner have reduced the per-subscriber price for which they will offer the Dodgers’ cable network to southern California cable operators. They’re doing so in an effort to make Dodgers games available to fans in the region who haven’t been able to see their games for a few years now due to the carriage dispute. All of the details about that can be read in the linked post.

A few moments ago Major League Baseball released a statement from Rob Manfred imploring the cable companies with whom the Dodgers are negotiating to accept the latest offer. And they did so in a pretty pathetic way in this writer’s opinion:

“The distribution dispute involving DirecTV, AT&T, COX and Verizon has gone on too long. The Dodgers’ massive fan base deserves to be able to watch Dodger games regardless of their choice of provider. The situation is particularly acute given that this is Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully’s final season. Time Warner has made a significant economic move that I hope will be accepted by the providers.”

The Vin Scully card, eh? Pretty low if you ask me.

Where was Major League Baseball’s concern about the masses being able to hear any given broadcaster when, as a matter of clear league policy, it and its clubs made a concerted effort to push games off of free, over-the-air TV and onto cable? Where was baseball’s concern about widespread availability of games when it pushed not just regular season games but postseason games onto cable as well? Where is it now that it continues to enforce blackout restrictions which are aggressively anti-fan yet persist because their existence is something the cable companies desperately, desperately want to keep in place?

Moreover, I’ve been searching my archives for a while now and I can’t seem to find the press release from MLB in which it said “hey, the bids from Fox, ESPN, TBS and the other networks were not quite what we wanted for national broadcast rights, but at some point we figured they were generous enough and we felt like making the best possible business deal we could wasn’t a great thing.” I’m SURE it’s here someplace, but I simply can’t locate it. Oh, and while you’re at it, MLB, maybe get the guys who write your press releases to help DirecTV, AT&T, Cox and Verizon’s P.R. department write theirs. You know, for when they have to explain to their shareholders that they took a deal that didn’t work for them because “hey, we were asked to do it for Vin.”

Finally, speaking of Vin Scully, I’m curious to know if anyone checked with him about being used as a point of emotional manipulation like this. He has never, not once, inserted himself into controversial business matters of the Dodgers or Major League Baseball and has, at almost every turn, gone out of his way to avoid attention that is unrelated to the actual calling of a baseball game in front of him. He’s a tremendous source of goodwill for the Dodgers to be sure, but he’s not some mascot or sympathy card that should be wielded like this.

This part of baseball is a business. Cable is definitely a business. Put your big boy pants on and do business, MLB, rather than playing cynical P.R. games like this.