Joe Garagiola turned 90 Friday, so it is understandable if his 20th century cultural relevance is a bit lost on millenials.
But trust us: The guy was big, sort of a Michael Strahan of his era, only without the Hall of Fame playing resume and with even more of an entertainment-world presence.
In addition to a long career as a play-by-play man and analyst — including for the 1986 World Series on NBC alongside Vin Scully — he was a regular on the “Today” show, hosted game shows and even filled in for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.”
On one such occasion in 1968 he had a rare interview with Paul McCartney and John Lennon of the Beatles. (A low-quality snippet of the video from a home movie of it exists on YouTube, as does much of the audio.)
Garagiola worked as a part-time analyst for the Diamondbacks as recently as 2012. He did not make the trip to New Jersey from his Arizona home for the funeral last September of his childhood friend, Yogi Berra, in St. Louis.
But in October his son, MLB executive Joe Garagiola Jr., told Newsday his father was “doing OK. He’s watching all the games. He loves this time of year.”
Joe Jr. said his father, a former major-league catcher, remains an opinionated observer of the game.
“Oh, yeah, completely,” Garagiola Jr. said before Game 2 of the World Series in Kansas City. “He has lost none of his baseball acumen. It’s fun to watch a game with him, and he’ll critique everybody — both managers, the catchers, the umpires. Those skills are as sharp as ever.”