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Joe Garagiola Sr. (1926 - 2016)

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Joe Garagiola Sr. (1926 - 2016)

Joe Garagiola, a legendary broadcaster and former Major League Baseball catcher, died Wednesday, according to multiple news sources. He was 90.

Outside of baseball fans, Garagiola is known best for his two stints as a panelist on NBC's "Today" show from 1967 to 1973 and again from 1990 to 1992. His colorful personality served him well during a broadcasting career that spanned seven decades. He had a 30-year association with NBC as a baseball announcer, providing both play-by-play duties as well as color commentary at various points during his career on television and radio.

Garagiola was born Feb. 12, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up across the street from future baseball legend Yogi Berra in the Italian-American neighborhood known as The Hill. The block on Elizabeth Avenue became retroactively known as Hall of Fame Place.

Of the two baseball prospects, Garagiola was projected to have the better major league career. The St. Louis Cardinals signed him when he was 16, and he made his MLB debut four years later, in 1946. He was the Cardinals' catcher when the team won the World Series in 1946.

However, unlike the career of his childhood friend Berra, Garagiola's baseball career did not end up in a Hall of Fame trajectory. He was traded in 1951 to the Pittsburgh Pirates and later to the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants. He retired in 1954 with a .257 batting average, 42 home runs, and 255 RBIs.

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Following the end of his playing career, Garagiola entered the broadcast booth, and it was here that his personality and often self-deprecating humor shined. He called radio broadcasts for the Cardinals from 1955 to 1962. He joined NBC's national broadcasting team in 1961 and was a fixture of the NBC baseball crew for decades. He called three World Series, in 1984, 1986, and 1988.

Following his departure from NBC Sports, he joined the broadcasting booth for the California Angels cable-televised games in 1990 and did part-time color commentary for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998 to 2012.

In addition to broadcasting baseball, he was a regular panelist on the "Today" show and occasionally guest-hosted "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Other broadcasting jobs included hosting the Orange Bowl Parade and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

In 1991, he was awarded baseball's Ford C. Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting accomplishments and honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

"Today" show host Matt Lauer tweeted this tribute:

God I'll miss Joe Garagiola.
Was part of the soul of our show, and told me stories that made me laugh till I cried.
Hall of fame person.

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