Joe Garagiola died yesterday in Phoenix. He was 90. A long life for a guy who loved telling us how poor a player he was. He wasn't a great catcher but how many of us can say we played 9 years in the Majors? He did tell us he was proud to have played for 4 of the then 8 teams in the National League. I always loved Joe's stories and more than once I heard them told in person. I was lucky. Real lucky. We once stood behind the batting cage at the DOME when Joe was there to broadcast a game for NBC. His business card was a baseball trading card. He signed it for me and I still have it framed in a collection of sports stuff I have collected.
During that brief meeting behind home plate Joe started telling stories to me and a few others waiting to hear him. " I was part of a 10 player deal between the Pirates and Cubs in 1953" he said. "It was a trade that HURT BOTH TEAMS". Classic Garagiola. He was right about the trade. The Pirates finished dead last that year losing 104 games. The Cubs were 7th losing 89 times. The Cubs sent one of my favorites to Pittsburgh to make up for the loss of Joe. Toby Atwell was now a Pirate. Pirate fans couldn't believe Ralph Kiner was now a Cub. Not much was said about Joe being a Cub. He also played for the Cards and Giants.
Joe grew up in St.Louis in a house near where Yogi grew up and spent his life in Berra's shadow. At least that is what Joe thought. Not me. A whole generation of baseball fans grew up wanting to be as sharp and as funny AS JOE. I know I did.