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.
A 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.
“He was one of the best people I have ever met. There was no limit to his generosity,” said its principal, Sr. Martha Mary Carpenter, who estimates that Garagiola was responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the school.
The 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.
“We 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 statement.
“Joe 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 felt.”
Garagiola first became aware of St. Peter Mission School in 1991 after Sr. 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.