Sad to hear of the passing of baseball and broadcasting great Joe Garagiola this week. Not a lot of people knew that, beyond his career as a broadcaster, he spent the better part of a decade speaking to ball clubs and other organizations about the dangers of chewing tobacco.
Back in my PR days nearly 20 years ago, Joe and I worked together on several projects and stadium events to educate kids and professional ball players.
He was an energetic speaker, pouring out his heart and sharing his experience and stories of those who had suffered. Joe was inspiring as he worked the room, connecting one on one, trying to impact the lives of these young me. He was passionate, fun to hang out with, gruff at times and a great communicator who knew how to capture players’ full attention when he spoke.
People knew him from his name as a ball player and his stint on the TODAY show and other broadcasts. And while he did make it into the Hall of Fame, he did it as a broadcaster. History however, may judge that his greatest impact was from his tireless work keeping what he called “spit tobacco” away from young people and changing the way their heroes on the baseball diamond behaved in from of their young fans. Joe was a true great who paid it forward.