2014 Buck O'Neil Award Winner Joe Garagiola

Part of the BUCK O'NEIL AWARD series

A few days after receiving word that he was the recipient of the 2014 John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, Joe Garagiola still had trouble explaining his good fortune.

“You get a call from the Hall of Fame, especially the way I played, you wonder what they want,” said Garagiola. “They certainly don’t want my bat, they don’t want my glove.

“But this is a tremendous, tremendous thrill. I’ve had nothing but telephone messages, faxes, and to be (the third Buck O’Neil Award winner) and have the Hall of Fame in the same sentence, it’s just unbelievable. I do not have the words at this time to really express how I feel.”

Garagiola was a big league catcher for four teams during a nine-season (1946-54) career and then began a lengthy radio-television broadcast career the culminated with him winning the 1991 Ford C. Frick Award.

He assisted in founding two organizations to help impact baseball in a positive manner: The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) and the National Spit Tobacco Education Program.

“It’s hard for me to say, ‘Hey, I did this; I did that,’ because everybody does a lot of things,” Garagiola said. “But there were things happening in baseball that I was a part of and worked hard to get going and keep going that helped a lot of people.

“And it’s special just to be honored in Buck’s name because Buck was like that. If Buck had a quarter and you said, ‘Buck, I need 50 cents,’ he’d have that other quarter for you in four minutes. He was always willing to help people. That’s what it’s all about.

“I had three dreams when I was a kid: I wanted to be a baseball player, I wanted to meet a Pope, and I wanted to meet a President. Well, I met them all, but I’ve got to tell you something: The Hall of Fame, when you’re a part of the induction, I’d be happy to say, ‘I’ll get the coffee, guys. Just stay here,’” he added. “At the Hall of Fame, when see these guys, the cards come alive. And I knew right away that if I was going to get into the Hall of Fame, I was going to have to buy a ticket.”

Garagiola passed away on March 23, 2016.

Part of the BUCK O'NEIL AWARD series