Following are excerpts from a transcript in box 182 of Hoover’s Post-Presidential Subject Files, ‘Hoover funeral,’ written and delivered by Joe Garagiola, NBC Broadcaster.
Although the custom is dying out now, years ago every ball park in the country used to have signboards surrounding the outfield. One that I remember particularly was in Cincinnati, and it was unusual because it had no pictures or advertisements. It merely was a quotation by a great American. It read, “The rigid voluntary rules of right and wrong, as applied in American sports, are second only to religion in strengthening the morals of the American people… and baseball is the greatest of all team sports.”
The man who said that, Herbert Hoover, lies in state today in Saint Bartholomew’s church in New York.
It is doubtful if there was ever a president in our history to whom sports meant as much as they did to Herbert Hoover. As a young man he made a fortune, lost it, battled back to make another. And still later he was to distinguish himself as a Great Humanitarian as well as President. Throughout all of this he never lost his interest in sports, and primarily baseball.
The day was October 6, 1931. The third game of the World Series was to be played in Philadelphia. To the ball park that day came President Hoover. It was a time of unemployment and prohibition, and the country’s troubles were blamed on him. So the crowd booed him. Not a little, they booed as loudly as they could. A tough day for a great man, and not a very proud one for baseball.
Throughout the years that followed, he never blamed baseball, nor did he ever lose his interest…. On the occasion of his 90th birthday he said, “The only flaw I can find in this wonderful day is that there is no baseball game to watch on television.”
During World War Two a friend of mine was walking down New York’s Park Avenue, the same street that is today filled with crowds paying their last respects. My friend was a marine at the time, and as he walked he saw Mr. Hoover, completely unnoticed by the crowds, walking towards him. As my friend drew near the man who had once been the commander-in-chief, he snapped to, and saluted crisply. Mister Hoover seemed a little surprised, but touched his hand to his hat in reply. And as they passed, Mr. Hoover said quietly, “Thank you, Sergeant.”
Today all of us are saluting Herbert Hoover. And those of us in baseball are like millions of Europeans who might have once starved to death but for this man because we, too, have lost a friend.
It’s been a privilege, Mister President.
This is Joe Garagiola.