Several guests were invited to speak last at a Congressional hearing about the dangers of smokeless tobacco. One of the most moving speeches was delivered by former Major League baseball player Joe Garagiola, according to a feature in the May 30, 2010 issue of The New York Times.
According to the article, Garagiola chewed tobacco inveterately during his playing days, but he kicked the habit fifty years ago. Now the 84 year old former catcher, coach and broadcaster takes advantage of every chance he gets to speak about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.
Garagiola has always had charisma, so he should be successful in his campaign to reduce the abuse of chewing tobacco. After all, his affable personality made him not only a popular broadcaster, but a revered television game show host as well. He became one of the few professional athletes to host a TV show that wasn’t sports-related. In fact, he hosted four game shows, according to www.gameshowfame.com. These shows included Sale of the Century, He Said She Said, To Tell the Truth, Strike It Rich, and Joe Garagiola’s Memory Game.
After reading the feature about Garagiola, I began thinking of other professional athletes who went on to host shows that were not sports-related. Here are the five most memorable.
5. John McEnroe on McEnroe: The tennis legend had his own prime time talk show on CNBC in 2004. He had some famous guests, such as Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline, Elton John, Sting, and even the Amazing Kreskin, but the show was cancelled after just a few months.
4. Chuck Connors on Family Theater: The former Brooklyn Dodger gained fame as Luke McCain in the western series Rifleman. Connors did show a more spiritual side on this radio program that emphasized the power of prayer.
3. Magic Johnson on The Magic Hour: The former NBA star hosted his own syndicated late night talk show in 1998. The most notable guests were Howard Stern and Drew Carey before the show was cancelled after a few months.
2. Joe Namath on The Joe Namath Show: The famous Jets quarterback had his own show with co-host Dick Schaap in 1969. While they did bring in a lot of athletes as guests, they also interviewed people such as Woody Allen, Paul Anka, Truman Capote and Ben Gazarra.
1. Charles Barkley on The List: On one of VH-1’s best music shows of all time, the former NBA power forward served as a referee as three celebrities debated various topics in popular music. Guests during the show’s run in 2000 included Kevin Bacon, Kirstie Alley, Stewart Copeland, Alice Cooper and David Duchovney.