Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up on Elizabeth Avenue in an Italian-American neighborhood in St. Louis known as The Hill, just a few doors down from his childhood friend and competitor, Yogi Berra. (That block was subsequently renamed “Hall of Fame Place”.)
Garagiola was signed at age 16 by the St. Louis Cardinals organization. At 17 he remains the youngest player to play in Columbus Red Birds (now Columbus Clippers) history. Garagiola made his major league debut in 1946.
As a rookie in 1946, in his only World Series appearance, Garagiola batted a 6-for-19 in five games, including a Game 4 where he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI’s.
Garagiola turned to broadcasting following his retirement as a player, first calling Cardinals radio broadcasts on KMOX from 1955 to 1962. As an announcer, Garagiola is best known for his almost 30 year association with NBC television. Besides calling baseball games for NBC, Garagiola served as a panelist on “The Today Show” from 1967 to 1973 and again from 1990 to 1992. He also occasionally guest-hosted “The Tonight Show” Starring Johnny Carson, including the only live appearances of any members of The Beatles on the program while still a group (John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the guests in May 1968).
After leaving NBC Sports, Garagiola had a brief stint as a television commentator for the California Angels. He also performed some color commentary duties for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where his son, Joe Garagiola, Jr., served as general manager. On February 22, 2013 Joe Garagiola, Sr. officially announced his retirement from broadcasting.
In 1991, he was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting accomplishments. He has also been given his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In 2012, he was honored by the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Phoenix, receiving its inaugural Legacy Award at its 24th Annual Crozier Gala for his tireless help and generosity with the St. Peter’s Mission School on the Gila River Reservation. Garagiola passed away on March 23, 2016.