A very interesting guy and an underrated player. And, if nothing else, you'll remember him for his play-by-play calling on Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
Sadly he been sick for some time. Will always remember his coined phrase when calling games "Holy Cow" and when he called folks a "huckleberry". He was a true Yankee and wore his pinstripes with Pride. One of the last of the Old Timers from their Hay Day.
Last edited by ehdg; 08-14-2007 at 01:07 PM.
I just heard that The Scooter, Phil Rizzuto has died at age 89.
I met Phil back in 1970 when I lived in Ft. Lauderdale and Phil was "the voice of the Yankees". The Yankees had spring training in Lauderdale and I yelled over the fence at Phil "would you like to play golf with me?" Well, free golf is free golf and he did, and played at my home course. He gave me his phone number and offered me free tickets at Yankee Stadium. That summer, when we had returned to the NY area, I called him and he left me a reserved seat ticket (upper deck). He did this a couple of times over a couple of years.
He will be missed.
A real gentleman, always. Whether or not you appreciated his unque broadcasting sensibilities and style of delivery. (THIS, from a Mets fan.)
When I was at the HOF a few weeks ago, there was "Holy Cow" on display in honor of Phil. A few years back a bunch of cities were given a cow and they were to decorate it with things that symbolized the city. New York honored Phil with a Yankee Holy Cow, well I'm assuming they did.
I waited on him when he and the Yankees stayed at the Marriott in Baltimore back in 1986. Even though I'm not a Yankee fan I enjoyed waiting on him, and of course listening to him call the games.
I'll never forget the Seinfeld episode when George lost his keys on his Phil Rizzuto key chain. The end of the program George is using a jackhammer to free his key chain from a water pipe when the pipe bursts and the keys with the Phil Rizzuto replica come gushing up to the camera and you hear "Holy Cow!".
I grew listening to him call the Yankee games...always a class guy. I am sad.
Rizzuto's 40-plus year stint as a broadcaster should not cause us to overlook his Hall of Fame career as a player.
There's a famous story of Casey Stengel, then the manager of the Dodgers, seeing him as a prospect and telling him he was too small to play Major League Baseball. That story is somewhat exaggerated. What happened is that a 17-year-old Rizzuto attended an open tryout at Ebbets Field, but was lost among 300-some other prospects and not invited back. He never mentioned Stengel in the story.
He was scouted and signed out of Richmond High in Queens by Paul Krichell, the great Yankee scout, but his career almost ended when he suffered a leg injury in his first year of professional baseball. Gangrene set in and the doctors wanted to amputate. Instead, they cut out a big lump of muscle from his calf.
Rizzuto make it to the Yankees in 1941 and replaced Frankie Crosetti (who was only 29 years old) at short. He hit .307 as a rookie and was immediately among the best defensive shortstops in the league.
He would play for 13 seasons (missing three years in his prime for WWII, which he served on a transport). His career BA average was .273 and he played on 11 pennant winners and eight World Championship teams.
Rizzuto's HOF credentials have been hotly debated over the years. Bill James thought it ws such a close call that he devoted an entire chapter of his book Politics of Glory to the issue. The case for Rizzuto is that he was a key component of one of the great teams in baseball history. He won an MVP (which James agrees that he richly deserves) in 1950, finished second in the MVP vote in 1949. He was justly renowned as among the top 2-3 fielding shortstops of his era (James awards him five pseudo Gold Gloves), plus he was without question the greatest bunter of his era (and, indeed, probably the best bunter of all baseball after the dead ball era).
Ultimately, James comes down against his election, but admits that the question depends on how much credit do you give players from that era who missed substantial parts of their career while serving in the service during WWII?
My opinion was shaped by Ted Williams, who during the 1951 season is reported to have pointed at Rizzuto and told DiMaggio, 'You see that little, sawed-off SOB over there? If we had him, we'd be winning all those pennants and not you."
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but after a long wait, Rizzuto was finally elected to the Hall of Fame the very first year that Ted Williams was added to the veteran's committee.
I might be one of the only people on this website who has had the awesome experience of having seen PR play. (over and over again). Although a METS fan, ....before the Mets were in existence, I spent many games with my Dad and Grandpa at Yankees Stadium.
The Polo Grounds and Ebbetts Field were also destinations when I was a little, tiny kid.
Such grace, such quickness, ....damn, I hate it when another legend dies.
Among the highest compliments paid Rizzuto came from Williams, who frequently said the Boston Red Sox might have been in all those World Series had Rizzuto been on their side. As a member of the Hall's Veterans Committee, Williams lobbied hard for Rizzuto's enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y., which became reality in 1994. Rizzuto had been the oldest living Hall of Famer.
If you've got 45 minutes to spare, I highly recommend both to you.
Also, I was just checking out a couple of old books about the Yankees of the Rizzuto era and see thatTommy Heinrich credits Rizzuto for coming up with the term "Five o'clock lightning" to describe the Yankees' late-inning power in those days when few teams had quality relief pitchers.
He also talks about how the Yankees of that era recognized the importance of Rizzuto and how they were determined to protect their frail 5-6, 150-pound shortstop. Heinrich describes a play against Detroit when a Tiger baserunner goes out of his way to rough up Rizzuto on a double play. The next time at bat, DiMaggio smacks a routine single to the outfield, but instead of stopping at first, he tries to stretch it into a double. Instead of sliding DiMaggio (a powerfully built 6-3 guy) just flattened the Tiger infielder covering second. He's out by a mile, but he got his message across -- you don't mess with Rizzuto.