H “Joe” Garagiola was born on February 12, 1926 in
Missouri and grew up with
Yogi Berra. Garagiola
was 16 when the St Louis Cardinals signed him in 1942 and sent him
of the Class C Western Association where he batted .254.
Garagiola advanced to Columbus of the Class AA American Association
in 1943 and was with them when he was called into military service
on April 24, 1944. After taking basic training at Jefferson
Barracks, Missouri, Garagiola was
sent to Fort Riley,
Kansas, where he quickly
established himself as the catcher for the Fort Riley Centaurs with
teammates Rex Barney
and Pete Reiser.
Garagiola was sent to the Philippines in
1945 where he played ball for Kirby Higbe’s
Manila Dodgers. He was discharged from service in early 1946 and was
just 20 years old when he joined the Cardinals, playing 74 games and
batting .237. In 1947, Garagiola played 77 games for the Cardinals
but spent most of 1948 back with Columbus.
He was back with St Louis in 1949 and was traded to the Pirates
in June 1951. Garagiola has his best season in the majors with the
Pirates in 1952, appearing in 118 games and batting .273.
Garagiola continued to play
in the majors until 1954, and began a career in broadcasting the
following year, calling Cardinals’ games for KMOX radio. In 1961
joined NBC – an association that spanned almost 30 years.