Joe Garagiola has spent his life in baseball as a player...

Q & A

May 19, 1994

Joe Garagiola has spent his life in baseball as a player, announcer and sports commenta- tor for NBC's "Today." Recently, he has spearheaded the efforts of the Baseball Assistance Team, a nonprofit group that offers financial support to ex-players and other baseball officials. Garagiola talked about the cause with The Sun's Mark Hyman.

Q: Who does BAT help?

A: Players, of course. But not only players. We recently changed our bylaws to take care of umpires, front-office personnel, scouts, widows, Negro League players. Last year we gave out, in grants, $768,000.

Q: Are needy players reluctant to come forward?

A: It's very difficult for them, the toughest thing in the world. The pride that got them into the big leagues is the pride that keeps them for asking for help. We tell them the only ones who will know are those on our grant committee.

Q: Former Oriole Sammy Stewart has publicly acknowledged BAT's role in helping him.

A: Just a terrible story. Sammy's son (diagnosed with cystic fibrosis) had died. I get a call from Ken Nigro (director, Orioles fantasy camp) that he can't afford to bury his kid. I said, 'Ken, call the undertaker. Sammy needs whatever pride he's got left.' Stories like that tear you up.

Q: Do current players contribute?

A lot have given money. Dave Valle. Andre Dawson. Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. Willie McGee. Donald Fehr (players union executive director) came to our last board meeting, and the players association is trying to come up with a (giving) plan. Not enough people know about us.

BAT welcomes donations from fans. Write: BAT, c/o Major League Baseball, 350 Park Avenue, N.Y., N.Y., 10022.

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