Yogi's closest friend as they grew up

After over a half century of colorful broadcasting, my favorite broadcaster (Joe Garagiola) is now retiring - he has just turned 87, several months younger than his boyhood and lifelong friend, Yogi Berra.

A broadcast Hall of Famer, Joe lent his knowledge of baseball lore and colorful story telling in a post playing career that outshined his playing career.

(One sad side note - through the AP press release, I read that Yogi is now in an assisted living facility. Yankees fans saw how frail he and Whitey looked, last old timer's day. But it was hotter than witches brew, that day, and the Yankees didn't need me to tell them that the famous duo almost certainly needed to be introduced via a covered golf cart. I'm glad they stayed in that cart. I certainly would have needed it too.)

One of the colorful encounters mentioned in the press release was a game when Joe's team was pitching to a well known tippler (Dusty Rhodes), but who was also a famous pinch hitter. After some delay from his pitcher, Joe went to the mound to discuss how they'd pitch Rhodes. Then Joe reminded his pitcher ... "but whatever you do, don't hit him in the back pocket or we'll have Jack Daniels all over home plate."

My most memorable Garagiola moment in broadcasting came when an umpire got quite animated in ejecting a player (or manager). Joe related his own experience, and I'll cut to the punch line. ..."the umpire got me so mad with that bad call that I took off my mask and threw it up into the air. But the umpire calmly told me, 'If that mask comes back down, you outta here'." I believe I first heard the colorful synonym (launch) from Joe to describe an ejection.

Joe worked with many TV venues, did a short stint (65-67) with the Yankees, even got to call Mickey Mantle's 500th homer on TV, off Stu Miller ("There she goes - there she goes!), NBC sports during different stints, the Today show, and guest host of the Tonight show (even saw John Lennon and Paul McCartney as guests!), and many game shows, including one incarnation of "To Tell The Truth".

And ever gracious in his departure, he told the D-backs that he was available as a pinch hitter in the broadcast booth if the need arises.

For the youngsters who don't know some of these old time names, I will lay the foundation for the last anecdote of the article. There was a famous comedian (whose political candor was famous) and his name was Will Rogers (your grandpa might remember him). He was a gentle guy, even made famous the quote: "I never met a man I didn't like."

So at the Don Rickles Friar's Roast in about 1968 or 1969, comedian Jackie Vernon told the acid tongued comic ..."And if Will Rogers was alive today, he would punch you right in the mouth!"

In comparison to Will Rogers was baseball's Stan Musial (for many years, Joe's teammate on the Cardinals), who always seemed to have a smile on his face, and whose countenance was compared to Will Rogers'.

Joe G related he knew it was time to retire when Stan stepped into the batter's box one day while Joe was catching for another team, then turned to Joe and said, "When are you gonna quit?"

(credits to Associated Press for main article data, and to Wikipedia for the final anecdote) All data was paraphrased.


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