This essay was written for The 10th Inning show that will air on FOX Sports Arizona starting on Sunday, April 21.
So Joe Garagiola Sr. has exited stage right and is headed off into the sunset.
I sort of expect a large multi-colored peacock to appear.
Joe and that bird, that network, linked together forever in my mind’s eye.
Which is sort of the point this time around.
So, like with the passing of Roger Ebert recently, where will we turn next?
I already know that I will more than likely never read another review of a movie, ever again, the way that I used to devour Ebert. Not a chance. I trusted him. He was always there, like a lighthouse in a port in a storm. You knew where to find him. Or, he found you. And every movie was somehow connected to him, six degrees or not.
That’s how I feel about Joe Garagiola in the context of our sporting lives.
Think of it.
When he spoke so reverently about “Mr. Rickey,” it’s because he probably called Branch Rickey “Mr. Rickey” to his face.
And when he waxed poetic about the great Satchel Paige and related a story about his days breaking out of the Negro Leagues, it was no doubt a first-hand recollection.
If Joe really is the silent partner/ghost-writer to all the Yogi-isms, I don’t care. You know why? Because he was Yogi Berra’s next door neighbor. Best friends for life.
He called Charles Schulz “Sparky.” Why? Because that’s what Schulz’s friends called him. Joe Garagiola was one of Charlie Brown’s pals.
If Joe talked about meeting the Pope, U.S. presidents, Mother Teresa or interviewing the Beatles, it was because he did.
Proximity with Joe is real, not imagined or recalled through somebody else.
It’s funny how time has eroded our memory banks: The first World Series that I recall ever experiencing the roller-coaster-ride of emotions was in 1975. I was 11. Every kid of my generation knows what it was like to race out in the back yard and recreate Carlton Fisk willing that dramatic, late-night home run to stay fair.
But now, in 2013, it’s not just Fisk, the Green Monster and the Big Red Machine that I remember. I remember Joe. I remember his call. Same with Bill Buckner in ’86. It wasn’t just the play. It was the construction of it as we witnessed it together in our living rooms.
And Joe was the carpenter.
When Joe talked about the plight of those on the Pima Indian Reservation, it was because he was probably on it a few days prior.
If he warned you of the perils of spit tobacco products, my bet is that he had just spent some time with someone who was ravaged by it.
Who carries that torch?
Who understands the real value and power of the medium the way Joe did, and uses it for the betterment of others, instead of inflating a Twitter account or any other array of self-promotion?
I am sure that there are several highly competent and skilled movie reviewers out there who are worthy of our time.
And I guess you could come up with a list of broadcasters and storytellers who might rate alongside Joe in their own right.
But forgive me if I keep these two guys on a pedestal for a little while.
I wrote once that Joe Garagiola was a part of the soundtrack of our lives, of a few generations of us.
And he is.
And he’s still here.
And like a great song, just because the band or the artist isn’t out touring or recording new material, that doesn’t mean we let them or their music go.
Not a chance, Joe.
You go ride off into that sunset with that peacock and enjoy the ride and don’t worry about make-up, commercials, producers or ratings.