Garagiola, 87, has founded two organizations -- The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) and the National Spit Tobacco Education Program -- to further his efforts around baseball in a positive manner. B.A.T. has distributed over $28 million in grants to over 3,000 individuals since 1986, and his tobacco education program has helped the game to create a Smokeless Tobacco Policy, while Garagiola has testified before Congress on the issue.
"Supposedly I made a career out of putting words together, but at this moment, I cannot express what it means to me to receive this honor," Garagiola said in a statement. "I think of the great Tug McGraw line, when he said, 'Two years out of baseball, you are a trivia question.' Well, now, to be recognized [by] the Hall of Fame for my lifetime achievement is just tremendous. I wish I could find the words to say 'Thank you' to the Board of Directors for this honor. What a thrill!"
O'Neil, who passed away in 2006, was honored as the first recipient of the award in 2008, and longtime executive Roland Hemond was honored in 2011.
"Joe Garagiola has spent eight decades in and around baseball, and has enhanced the lives of so many fans and players," Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. "He has promoted the positive impact of baseball on society and embodies the spirit of the Buck O'Neil Award. The Board is recognizing Joe's character, integrity and dignity; and his countless hours of tireless work with B.A.T. and the Spit Tobacco Education Program, for the sole benefit of those in need of assistance and education. He gained national fame as a broadcaster who went beyond baseball to use his celebrity platform to make a difference for others. We are extremely honored to present him with the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award."
Garagiola also was presented in 1991 with the Ford C. Frick Award by the Hall of Fame for broadcasting excellence.
Upon his retirement as a player following the 1954 season, Garagiola started calling Cardinals games on the radio alongside Harry Caray and Jack Buck from 1955-62. Garagiola also worked with another legend, Vin Scully, during part of his 30-year broadcasting tenure at NBC.
As NBC's No. 1 baseball broadcasting crew from 1983-88, Garagiola and Scully called each Saturday's "Game of the Week," as well as three All-Star Games, three National League Championship Series and three Fall Classics.
Garagiola officially announced his retirement earlier this year after a 58-year television and radio career, the last 15 of which were spent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.