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Baseball and broadcasting veteran Joe Garagiola retires at 87

Los Angeles Dodgers head coach Joe Torre (L) talks to Joe Garagiola Sr. before playing the Chicago White Sox in a MLB spring training game i
Los Angeles Dodgers head coach Joe Torre (L) talks to Joe Garagiola Sr. before playing the Chicago White Sox in a MLB spring training game i

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Joe Garagiola, the Major League baseball veteran best known for his affable personality and quick wit as a sports commentator, game show host and even late-night television personality, retired from broadcasting on Wednesday.

Garagiola, 87, who made his Major League debut with his hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1946 and ended his baseball career nine seasons later with the New York Giants, embarked on a much longer broadcasting career in 1955.

He began calling Cardinal radio broadcasts on KMOX that year and went on to a nearly three-decade association with NBC starting in 1961, making his mark as a commentator for the network's baseball game of the week broadcasts into the 1980s.

Garagiola crossed over from sports to NBC's news division, serving as a "Today" show panelist from 1967 to 1973 and again from 1990 to 1992, and also worked in entertainment television.

During the 1960s and 70s, he filled in for Johnny Carson as an occasional guest host of NBC's "Tonight Show" and presented various game shows, including "He Said, She Said", Joe Garagiola's Memory Game", "To Tell the Truth" and "Strike It Rich".

In addition to his Major League stints with the Cardinals and the Giants, the left-handed-hitting catcher played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs during a 676-game career that earned a .257 batting average, 42 home runs and 255 RBI.

"I really appreciate everything that has happened to me," Garagiola said at news conference at the Arizona Diamondbacks spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. "I don't deserve a lot things that happened to me, but I remember Jack Benny said he had arthritis, and he didn't deserve that either."

Garagiola capped his Hall of Fame broadcasting career as a part-time television analyst for the Diamondbacks since 1998.

(Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Steve Gorman and Pravin Char)