The Baseball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Joe Garagiola will not attend a ceremony July 26 at Doubleday Field because of health reasons.
Garagiola, 88, played nine major-league seasons as a catcher but arguably made a bigger impact off the field during a broadcasting career that lasted 58 years.
“My doctors have advised me not to travel long distances, so it is with great sadness that I will not be present in Cooperstown over Hall of Fame Weekend to accept the Buck O’Neil Award,” Garagiola said in a media release from the Cooperstown shrine. “I am grateful to the Hall of Fame Board of Directors for this tremendous honor, named for one of the game’s greatest ambassadors.”
Garagiola became the third winner O’Neil Award, established in 2007 to honor an individual whose efforts broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity compares to O’Neil, who died in 2006 after eight decades of contributions to the game. O’Neil was honored as the first recipient of the Award in 2008. Longtime executive Roland Hemond earned the award in 2011.
The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Board of the Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at its discretion, though not more frequently than every three years.
Garagiola, the 1991 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, dedicated his life to helping others in the game, through his role in founding two organizations to impact baseball in a positive manner: The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) and the National Spit Tobacco Education Program.
Since 1986, B.A.T. has distributed more than $28 million in grants to help approximately 3,000 people in need. He’s also been outspoken in his fight against smokeless tobacco.