Franciscan sister says there was 'no limit' to Joe Garagiola's generosity

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Scuteri, Reuters


(CNS) — Baseball legend and popular sports broadcaster Joe Garagiola, who died
March 23 at age 90, recounted in a Catholic News Service interview 20 years ago how St.
Peter Mission School in the Gila River Indian Community south of Phoenix claimed
his heart.

few years earlier, he said, when he stepped into “the quicksand” of
love at the mission school, there was no turning back. He found his heart
rooted there.

was one of the best people I have ever met. There was no limit to his
generosity,” said its principal, Sister Martha Mary Carpenter, who
estimates that Garagiola was responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of
dollars into the school.

death of Garagiola, a lifelong Catholic and a Scottsdale resident, was
announced by the Arizona Diamondbacks. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated in his
hometown of St. Louis at St. Ambrose Church. A memorial service will take place
later in Arizona.

are deeply saddened by the loss of this amazing man who was not just beloved by
those of us in his family, but to generations of baseball fans who he impacted
during his eight decades in the game,” the Garagiola family said in a

loved the game and passed that love onto family, his friends, his teammates,
his listeners and everyone he came across as a player and broadcaster,” they
added. “His impact on the game, both on and off the field, will forever be

first became aware of St. Peter Mission School in 1991 after Sister Carpenter,
gave a talk at Garagiola’s local parish. He was in New York at the time, but
fellow parishioners told him about her talk and about the Franciscan Sisters of
Christian Charity and their fondness for sports.

said, ‘Those are my kind of sisters. How can I meet them?'” Sister
Carpenter told CNS March 23, recalling her first meeting with the Hall of Fame

spent quite a bit of time at the mission and its school through the years. He
hit up those he knew in Arizona sports and business for donations and help for
St. Peter’s.

nicknamed us ‘Our Lady of the Quicksand,'” Sister Carpenter said. “Because
once you get your feet into St. Peter’s, you can’t get out.”

list of repairs and new buildings he facilitated is long and included a
basketball court, a soccer and track field, an all-purpose facility for
gatherings and events, a new convent, a library and computer learning center
and extensive repairs to the old mission church.

Carpenter said his legacy will remain with the school.

couldn’t talk to people for more than five minutes without talking about the
mission. … He will be with us in spirit for a very long time.”

said St. Peter’s schoolchildren still recite “Joe’s Prayer” twice
each day. Garagiola himself taught them the short invocation: “Teach us O
Lord, that every day, down every street, come chances to be God’s hands and

Feb. 12, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood
just across the street from his childhood friend and competitor, Yogi Berra.
The two were lifelong friends. Berra died last September at age 90.

age 16, Garagiola was signed to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, for five
seasons, including a 1946 championship. He also was a catcher for the
Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants.

his pro career ended in 1954, he became a broadcaster for the Cardinals and the
Yankees before co-hosting the “Today Show.” He was a broadcaster for
NBC for years and also for the California Angels baseball team.

later did TV baseball broadcasts for the Diamondbacks. His awards
include a 1973 TV Peabody Award and Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 1991 for
broadcasting. In 1996, Garagiola won that year’s Gabriel Award from the U.S.
organization for Catholic communicators.

for his colorful personality, he also made numerous appearances on game shows,
both as a host and panelist.

he always carried a rosary in his pocket is among the lesser-known aspects of a
man long in the public eye. Garagiola also had a strong devotion to Mary.

you ever want anything, go to the Mother,” he once said, adding that her
month of May was his favorite month.

is survived by his wife of 66 years, Audrie; sons Joe Jr., a senior vice president
for baseball operations with the MLB and former general manager of the
Diamondbacks, and Steve, a newscaster in Detroit; a daughter, Gina Bridgeman, a
writer in Phoenix; and several grandchildren.

Carpenter said she and the other sisters at St. Peter’s were going to travel to
St. Louis for Garagiola’s funeral.

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to this story was Nancy Wiechec.


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