ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Family and friends gathered on The Hill in St. Louis Wednesday to say goodbye to one of that neighborhood`s most celebrated residents; broadcaster and former baseball Cardinal Joe Garagiola.
‘Our hero is gone to the Lord, but he has not left us,’ said Msgr. Vince Bommarito, pastor at St. Ambrose Catholic Church. It`s where Garagiola was baptized.
Garagiola died three weeks ago in Arizona at the age of 90.
Garagiola`s wife of 66 years, Audrie was one of many speakers who spoke of her late husband`s generosity, telling a story about what he did when, at the age of 16, he received a $500 signing bonus after being given his first contract in baseball.
‘Joe called his brother and said ‘let`s go down to the factory, we`ve got to find pop,’ and they looked for him and they found him and Joe gave him this check for $500 and he said, ‘here pop now you can pay off the mortgage on the house.’ And he said that was the first time he ever saw his father cry,’ she said.
Among those representing the worlds of baseball and broadcasting in the crowd was sportscaster and former Cardinal Tim McCarver.
‘He was a monumental figure in the world of broadcasting. (His appeal was) humor primarily and being himself, and that is the one thing about Joe; he was never anybody other than himself and there is a lesson in that somewhere,’ McCarver said.
Also remembered on Wednesday was Garagiola`s lifelong pal Yogi Berra, who grew up across the street, and who died last year also at the age of 90.
‘Even when they were both having their troubles, they would get on the phones when they couldn`t travel, they`d get on the phone and it seemed like all their troubles disappeared,’ said Larry Berra II, Yogi`s son.
Garagiola had been a broadcaster so long, many have forgotten his baseball career as a player.
‘The main portrait of him up there today was an oil painting of Joe in his Cardinals outfit and I think he always thought of himself as a Cardinal,’ said Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III.
And it was in the vernacular of baseball that Garagiola`s son Joe Junior offered his goodbye.
‘Today our dad, our papa, our friend, our Joe, got home safely. As St. Paul said those many years ago, he can now say I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’
Audrie Garagiola offered a summation of her late husband`s life by quoting what he once told an interviewer who asked him to describe himself.
‘I`m just a kid from The Hill who wasn`t afraid to try things and by the grace of God good things happened to me.’