Baseball and broadcast legend Joe Garagiola dies at 90

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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.