My friend Joe passed away today…

imgresJoe Garagiola passed away today. He and Yogi can now play catch on the big diamond in the sky.

Joe and I were travel buddies for one season of Diamondbacks broadcasts. It was a season that I will never forget, but our friendship went deeper than that. But first, some travel stories.

Joe and I were at DFW airport waiting for a flight, when someone recognized him. Joe carried cards with him that he could just hand out to his admirers(there were many). We were trying to make our way to the gate but the throng around us grew and grew to the point where he just had to stop and sign every last autograph. While he was signing, Richard Simmons(yep, that Richard Simmons) walked up to Joe and the two had a funny, lighthearted conversation.

A taxi cab driver in Denver took more than one wrong turn and Joe had the patience of Job to get the man back on track. The poor cabbie didn’t know what to do once he recognized Joe.

One time, Joe and I did a show at Tex Earnhardts dealership in Apache Junction. Joe Black(another great man, and great friend) and Joe told stories about Jackie Robinson, race relations, and baseball for two hours. During one break, Joe had to the run to the mens room. While he was doing his business, a man next to him asked “hey Joe, how’s it going?”…without a beat, Joe said “What does it look like I’m doing, water skiing?”

More than once I went to St. Peters Mission to meet Joe and Sister Martha. Joe called her “Sister Quicksand”. The two of them would go back and forth on things that she needed. He loved going there. He would help load and unload boxes even in his 80’s. He was so proud of the work that was being done down there. We went out on the soccer field and he’d kick balls to the kids and even tried to run with them. Kids would be all over  him when he’d show up. He was always grinning ear to ear.

I did a story on Joes’ grandson playing baseball. We put a microphone on Joe as he sat it the stands with his son, Joe Garagiola Jr. Three generations of Garagiolas at a baseball diamond at Phoenix Country Day high school. That was a fun day!

Joe sent me a note on Christmas morning 2002. I had parted ways from KTAR just a couple of weeks before. His note was one of encouragement. He reminded me of my love of family and that there were better things around the next corner. When I started Sports360 in 2012, he was pleased to hear that I was seeking better balance in life. He was very encouraging about my career path and said “just be yourself, you’re doing great”.

Joe came on my show from time to time, but the last long sit down interview we
had was at his house in 2010. Joe had suffered a bad fall and wasn’t doing so well. He was emotional on camera about some of the struggles he was going through. It was a difficult day.

There are many more stories. They aren’t the most glamorous. They are just moments that I will cherish. I’m lucky to have spent some time with him…