Longtime trainer Tony Garofalo has fond memories of time with Cubs

  • The Cubs' Bill Buckner gets hit in the arm and ribs by Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss June 5, 1981 at Wrigley Field. With Buckner on the ground, trainer Tony Garofalo comes to his aid.

    The Cubs' Bill Buckner gets hit in the arm and ribs by Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss June 5, 1981 at Wrigley Field. With Buckner on the ground, trainer Tony Garofalo comes to his aid. Associated Press

 
Updated 6/4/2022 5:00 PM

Part 1 of 2

In the early 1980s, the Cubs cemented their cult status through the influence of superstation WGN, and Wrigley Field became a worldwide destination.

 

Through Harry Caray's broadcasts, viewers became familiar not only with the players, but others associated with the team, including the mustachioed athletic trainer, Tony Garofalo.

I spoke with Garofalo about his days with the Cubs and some of the fan favorites with whom he worked.

Garofalo's story began in what Cubs fans consider enemy territory, St. Louis.

There, his father, Tony Sr., who was in the liquor business, listened to Cardinals games broadcast by Caray.

Garofalo said that when he was with the Cubs, "Every time we would go into St. Louis, (Harry) said "Is dad going be here tonight?"

Tony Sr. would often have a little present for Harry, a bottle of Scotch.

In fact, his dad arranged, through distributor friends, to provide the champagne poured during the celebration of the 1984 NL East clincher in Pittsburgh.

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Garofalo said he found his livelihood in high school, when a coach paid for him to attend a student trainer camp.

He went to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., intending to play soccer. But while playing in a summer soccer league he broke three ribs. While healing, he took a job as a student manager and athletic trainer.

When he graduated, the man who would be his mentor, Bob Bauman, athletic trainer with the St. Louis Cardinals, hired Garofalo, sending him to work in the Cardinals farm system.

When he was with the St. Petersburg Cardinals, his first roommates were Keith Hernandez and Marc "Booter" Hill.

His roommate with the Sarasota Red Birds was a young prospect named Randy Poffo, who later became better known as the wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage.

"He was a typical 19-year-old, 20-year-old kid at the time, right out of high school. He was a great hitter and a so-so fielder."

Later, when Poffo attained wrestling fame, the late Chet Coppock had him as a guest on his show. Coppock surprised him on the air by having Garofalo call in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As a trainer, Garofalo said, "I had some of the greatest mentors. I worked with Gus Mauch, who was the athletic trainer for the Yankees in their heyday, with Mantle and Maris."

Another mentor was Bauman, who spent 50 years with the Cardinals.

Garofalo said, "The biggest thing I learned from them was you treat them all the same. You didn't treat the superstars any different than you did the guy who was the 40th man on the roster."

Cubs GM Bob Kennedy hired Garofalo prior to the 1977 season. That year the team, piloted by Herman Franks, finished fourth at 81-81 despite a hot first half.

During the early years, he cultivated a friendship with mythic slugger Dave Kingman, who took Garofalo to his house in Connecticut when the club was in New York.

"All he wanted to do was play baseball. He didn't like all the interviews and all that stuff that goes along with it. And I think he got a bad rap."

Kingman provided memorable moments, including the time he hit a home run that landed on Kenmore Avenue during the legendary 23-22 game against the Phillies.

There was also the Mother's Day weekend home run spurt in 1978 in Los Angeles.

"He hit one that Rick Monday, who was playing center field, just turned around and watched. I thought it was going to hit the speakers in center field."

A reporter's question about Kingman's "performance" after the game in which he hit three homers, including the game-winner in the 15th inning, prompted a legendary tirade from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Another favorite Cubs player was Bobby Murcer.

He remembers that when the Cubs were on "Game of the Week" -- the first time Garofalo would be on national television -- Murcer asked Garofalo if anybody he knew would be watching. Garofalo said he was sure his parents and friends in St. Louis would be watching.

Early in the game, Murcer made a diving catch in right field.

"He's laying on the ground. So I go running out to right field. I get out there, and he goes, 'Act like you're doing something. I'm giving you some TV time so everybody at home can see you.' "

Garofalo checked his knee and after about two or three minutes, Murcer told him, "I gave you enough TV time. Get the hell out of here."

Another time, Murcer, learning that Garofalo was staying downtown at the Executive House, arranged for him to stay instead in Murcer's three-bedroom townhouse in the Northwest suburbs.

He and Murcer would often go to dinner, after which Murcer would say, "I'll flip you for dinner to see who buys."

Garofalo said, "Well, for some reason, I must have been the luckiest person in the world, or he lied to me. Because I never bought dinner one time when I stayed with him."

• Next week: Clubhouse pranks and curtain calls

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