PRO BASEBALL PLAYER AND BROADCASTER
“Baseball is drama with an endless run and an ever-changing cast.”
Another baseball product from the St. Louis area known as the Hill, Joe Garigiola was one of the kings of baseball in the 1940s and 1950s. He has a World Series ring and numerous other accolades to vouch for his accomplishments. But to many people, he is more famous for his broadcasting career after his playing days were finished, and his famous commercials for Mr. Coffee.
THE EARLY YEARS
Joseph Henry Garagiola was born on February 12, 1926, in St. Louis and grew up in the St. Louis neighborhood called The Hill. Baseball was the primary pastime for kids in the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis, and Joe proved to be a fierce competitor. He soon had the attention of major league scouts, especially from his hometown team.
RISE TO FAME
Garagiola was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals when he was only 16 years old. The money wasn’t much in those days, but playing for the Cardinals in the traveling circuit was still much better than playing in the sandlots where he played with childhood friend Yogi Berra. Garagiola spent the next two years in the minor leagues, then two years serving in World War II. When he returned from the war, he was older, stronger, and more mature. That combination, along with his natural athletic ability, catapulted him into the major leagues in 1946 at 20 years old.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Garagiola made quite an impact during his first year with St. Louis, catching in 74 games as the Cardinals finished the season in first place. They met the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, where the Cardinals won in seven games. He had a great series for the World Champions, playing in five games where he batted .316.
He played a total of five and a half seasons at Sportsman’s Park before a shoulder injury forced him to the bench. While recovering, he filled in as an announcer in the broadcasting booth. His playing days weren’t over though, and he bounced around to the Pirates, Cubs, and finally the Giants. He retired in 1954 at the age of 28 and returned to St. Louis to broadcast Cardinals games the next year.
Many people say that his second career was even better than his first. He called games for the Cardinals for a few years before heading to New York and the Yankees broadcast booth. He spent nearly three decades behind the microphone, with legions of fans that hung on his every word. He later joined the crew of the Today show where he was a fixture on morning television for five years. He was honored for his contributions to baseball and broadcasting in 1991 by being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
*Garagiola played himself in the movie Catch Me If You Can in 2002.
*He has written a pair of books, Baseball Is a Funny Game and It’s Anybody’s Ballgame.
*His son, Joe Garagiola, Jr., also worked in baseball as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and in baseball operations
for Major League Baseball.