Emotional first pitch for Garagiola Sr.
Longtime broadcaster overwhelmed by playoff atmosphere
PHOENIX -- Joe Garagiola Sr. has been involved with Major League Baseball for over 60 years as a player and broadcaster.But after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and looking out at the Chase Field crowd before Thursday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, he still got a little choked up. "It was so emotional for me to see the people and the reaction and then thinking back to when I was 20 years old," said Garagiola Sr., 81, who was reminiscing about his only postseason appearance as a player. "Memories are golden. It's a big night for me." Tears streamed down Garagiola Sr.'s face as he walked off the field after hitting Arizona catcher Miguel Montero's glove. Adding to the moment, his son, Joe Garagiola Jr., watched the moment on the field. Garagiola Jr., Arizona's GM from its inception until 2005, helped build the D-backs by drafting Brandon Webb, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson and Justin Upton, all of whom started Thursday. "It's special," Garagiola Sr. said. "It's always special when Joe's around. He's in the Commissioner's Office and he's certainly objective, but a lot of these kids he signed up. It's exciting for all of us." Garagiola Sr. has been a baseball mainstay since breaking in with St. Louis in 1946. The baseball lifer played nine seasons before starting a five-decade broadcasting career. He spent nearly 25 years on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week telecasts before joining Arizona's broadcast team when it became a franchise in '98, working as a color commentator on selected broadcasts. Garagiola Sr., who never returned to the playoffs after appearing in the '46 World Series as a 20-year-old rookie catcher, told Arizona's players to enjoy this experience because you never know if it's your last one. "Having gone through it as a player, I know it's special," he said. "I've watched those guys. You've got a nervous energy, and anyone who says it's just another game, it's not. You've got a whole hockey game going right here [in your stomach]." Before Garagiola Sr. threw out the first pitch, Dr. Jesse McGuire played "The Star Spangled Banner" on his trumpet.
McGuire, the D-backs' good luck charm during the club's run to the 2001 championship and a regular at important Phoenix sporting events, also played the anthem when Arizona beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the Division Series on Oct. 3 and before Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.Near the conclusion of the national anthem, four F-16 "Top Dogs" from the 61st Fighter Squadron flew over Chase Field, where a 300-by-150 foot American flag was unfurled in the outfield. With tears wetting his eyes, Garagiola Sr. still felt good enough to joke around about his soft toss, which he said was slower than a Livan Hernandez curveball. "The radar gun didn't even register, it was 28 miles an hour," he said. "I think you could have clocked me on a calendar. The only reason it dropped was lack of speed."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.