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Garagiola Leaves Job With NBC : Baseball Commentator Upset Network Didn't Begin Negotiations

November 09, 1988|LARRY STEWART | Times Staff Writer

Baseball commentator Joe Garagiola is leaving NBC after 27 years with the network.

Garagiola last week sent a letter to Art Watson, president of NBC sports, saying he would not be back. The letter was received Monday and an announcement was made Tuesday.

Garagiola's contract, which reportedly earned him $800,000 last season, expired Nov. 1.

"I made up my mind in the middle of the summer that I would not be back in '89," Garagiola said from his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. "I'm not a kiss-and-tell kind of guy, so I'm really not saying much about why I'm leaving.

"In my letter to Art Watson, there was no big laundry list of reasons."

Before the World Series, however, Garagiola had voiced displeasure that NBC had not made any moves toward negotiating a new contract.

"They've left me twisting all summer," he said at the time.

He was also upset about published reports that his job hinged on his performance during the Series.

Felix Shagin, Garagiola's business manager, said Tuesday: "He was reading about his contract in the papers, but he wasn't hearing anything from NBC. He didn't think that was a classy act."

Garagiola, 62, said: "I believe in the work ethic. You're hired out to do a job, and you do it and don't complain. You have two options. You either accept what you're told to do, or you move on.

"I told (former New York Yankee) Jack Clark late last season when he was complaining about George Steinbrenner, 'You take a man's money, you take his guff.'

"In my case, I just decided not to take any more guff.

"I talked it over with my wife Audrie and my family (Garagiola has three children) in midsummer.

"This was a lot like when I decided to leave baseball and get into broadcasting. That was in 1954, and the Giants had offered me $16,000, which was more than I'd ever made before.

"But Harry Caray, then with the St. Louis Cardinals, encouraged me to get into broadcasting and take a commentating job with the Cardinals.

"My wife said, 'Let's do it and never second-guess our decision.' She said pretty much the same thing this time."

Garagiola was one of the first athletes to go from the playing field to the broadcast booth, a practice now commonplace.

Garagiola said he got a call from broadcast partner Vin Scully, who was in Venice, Italy, late Tuesday.

"He wanted to know what was going on, and I told him," Garagiola said. "I also told him this does nothing to our friendship, and I'd still call him whenever I'm in Los Angeles, and I'd expect him to call me, too."

NBC, which issued a statement saying it wished Garagiola all the best, now must name a replacement. There are many candidates.

One is Tony Kubek, the No. 2 commentator, but an NBC source said it's unlikely the team of Bob Costas and Kubek would be broken up.

Don Sutton, who has retired from baseball and is looking for a broadcasting job, is a possibility. Joe Torre's name also has come up, but an NBC spokesman said he was unaware that the Angel commentator is a possibility.

Garagiola said his plans are open.

"I'd love to stay in baseball, but I'd also be receptive to a job as a game-show host," he said.

Garagiola has been the host of such shows as "Sale of the Century," "To Tell the Truth" and "Strike It Rich."

Said Garagiola: "There were times when I wasn't doing baseball where I'd do 'The Today Show' in the morning, 'The Tonight Show' at night and game shows in between.

"I'm pretty much open to anything now. I'm surely not retiring."

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