From Richard Justice at MLB.com on July 22, 2014, on longtime SABR member Joe Garagiola:
As the memories of 72 years in and around baseball roll through his mind, [Joe] Garagiola pauses for just a moment.
In that instant, it’s clear what he’s thinking.
“There are no bad days at the ballpark,” Garagiola said.
That’s because this man who never met a stranger, this man who has almost never had a bad day, loves this wonderful game as much as he did on that day when he and the kid down the street in St. Louis began looking for pickup games.
“Let me tell you something about Yogi [Berra],” Garagiola said. “He could hit it into the seats when he was 14. When I saw Yogi, I knew I wasn’t even going to be the best player on the block.”
Let’s say this right up front about Joe Garagiola Sr. No one has ever loved his life more than this man. No one has ever loved baseball more.
Indeed, Garagiola says one of the reasons for his lifelong love affair with baseball is that laughter is as much a part of the fabric of the sport as bats and gloves.
“There’s only one place to be,” he said. “That’s the ballpark. The world is right at the ballpark.”
Garagiola is 88 now and moving a bit slower these days. But his spirit remains strong, his sense of humor as sharp as ever.
On a recent afternoon, Garagiola welcomed MLB.com to the apartment he shares with Audrey, his wife of 64 years, to reflect on his remarkable life and times.
Garagiola’s wonderful life has been one of humor and giving, of dignity, integrity and grace. Baseball has been a constant — his enduring love. Yet that’s just part of the story. Rather than curse the darkness, he has lit candles, hundreds of them.
- Related link: Joe Garagiola named recipient of 2014 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award (December 4, 2013)
Originally published: July 22, 2014. Last Updated: July 22, 2014.