The Grim Reaper has been arriving faster than The Grandstander can keep up. So let us note the following passings:
1926 - 2016
Former baseball player turned broadcaster turned all-round television personality, Joe Garagiola died this week at the age of 90. Garagiola turned a mediocre-to-fair baseball career and a childhood friendship with Yogi Berra into a career that went far beyond the baseball field and included being a co-host of the Today Show and a sometimes substitute for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Perhaps, however, the best thing that Garagiola ever did was found the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) that helped out destitute and down-on-their-luck former baseball players. He ended up successful beyond what I am sure were his wildest dreams. He didn't have to start up BAT, but he did, so good for him.
Actor Ken Howard, who died this week at age 71, may best be known as the actor who starred in television's "The White Shadow", a show about a white basketball coach at an inner city high school, in the 1970's. Turns out that Howard actually was a star high school basketball player in Long Island, and was the only white starter on his team. He was nicknamed, you guessed it, The White Shadow. He had a long and distinguished acting career, most notably as Thomas Jefferson in both the stage play and movie, "1776". Since 2009, he served as President of the Screen Actors Guild.
Earl Hamner, Jr.
Earl Hamner, Jr, was best known as the author of the novel "Spencer's Mountain" which led to a 1963 movie of the same name, and more notably, the 1970's TV series, "The Waltons", which ran for nine years and over 200 episodes. Of course, as is often the case, Hamner's obituary reveals that he did a lot more than that. As a young man, he befriended Rod Serling and went on to write a number of episodes of Serling's classic, "The Twilight Zone". His writing credits for both movies and television stretch back to 1953 (and include the creation of "Falcon Crest", another series that ran for nine years), and his obit reveals that he was still having short stories published in various books and magazines when he was age 90. He was 92 when he died this past week.
RIP Joe Garagiola, Ken Howard, and Earl Hamner Jr.