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Growing Up With Yogi Berra - A Baseball Hall Of Famer

Joe Garagiola Jr.
Phil Latzman/KJZZ
Joe Garagiola Jr. shows a picture of his longtime family friend Yogi Berra.

Yogi Berra was remembered Wednesday in baseball circles and beyond. The Baseball Hall of Fame member died Tuesday at the age of 90 and had a special connection to Arizona.

His lifelong friend was Valley resident and fellow former big league player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola Sr.

"It's a tough day for me. We knew each other forever." Garagiola said from his Paradise Valley home, while politely declining further interview requests.

"All he could say is, 'I lost my best friend'," Joe Garagiola Jr. said after his father heard the news.

Garagiola Jr. is a former executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks who now works as Major League Baseball's vice president of standards and on-field operations.

Garagiola Jr. said his father, now 89, and Berra grew up across the street from each other in a heavily Italian St. Louis neighborhood, each the son of immigrants.

"He cannot ever remember not knowing Yogi, period," Garagiola Jr. said Wednesday from his Phoenix office. "Who in life is fortunate enough to live to that age and have that constant in your life. They spoke every couple of weeks, and they were born in the '20s. It's incredible to think about."

The Garagiola and Berra families grew up close. Close enough to spend holidays together.

"We would alternate Thanksgivings at each others houses, every year," Garagiola Jr. said.

And from someone who shared many dinner table conversations with Berra, Garagiola pointed out that Berra’s legendary wit wasn’t intentional.

"(He) did not think of himself as a funny person and was not the kind of person who would be in a group and all of the sudden he would throw out some snappy one-liner and get a big laugh out of it," Garagiola Jr. said. "He would express things uniquely, but he was always right. Immediately, you understood what he was saying.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect Joe Garagiola grew up across the street from Yogi Berra.

Updated 9/23/2015 at 6:20 p.m.

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Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.