“Holy Cow”, was my first reaction when the mlblogs Fan “Leader’s List” was released last week with my mlblog, “Baseball, The Yankees, and Life”, ranked #10, on that, January 29 – February 4, 2009 list. Of course, the “Holy Cow” refers to one of the most famous expressions by the all-time great “Hall of Fame” New York Yankees shortstop, #10, “The Scooter” Phil Rizzuto, during his long distinguished 40 year broadcasting career announcing Yankee games, after he retired from playing his whole baseball career with the Yankees.
Rizzuto was also famous for calling everybody a “huckleberry” during his days announcing Yankee games, as well as, reading out birthday wishes to viewers during the games, as he awaited the arrival of the “cannolis” and other assorted pastries and cakes in the broadcast booth, gifts of appreciaion from many Yankee fans that received so much joy listening to one of the most recognizable voices in baseball broadcast history.
Phil Rizzuto was an “American Original”, and one of the most beloved players and announcers in New York Yankees history.
The “Scooter” was also one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history, playing his whole baseball career with the Yankees during the years, 1941-1956.
Rizzuto’s career was interrupted, though, when he was called to serve our Country in the United States Navy during World War II, from 1943 through 1945. During this time in the military, Rizzuto also played on the Navy baseball team, managed by the great Yankees catcher, Bill Dickey.
Rizzuto played on 10 American League Championship teams, appearing in nine World Series in which the Yankees won seven World Championships. He still holds numerous World Series records for shortstops, including: most career games played; singles; walks; times on base; stolen bases; at-bats; putouts; assists; and, turning double plays. He also won the Babe Ruth Award in 1951 as the best player in the ’51 World Series, batting .320 in the Yankees World Series victory over the New York Giants.
Throughout Rizzuto’s career in regular season play, he was regarded as one the finest fielding shortstops of his era, taking part in 1,217 double plays, the second highest total in Major League Baseball history at the time of his retirement in 1956.
To grasp the value of Phil Rizzuto on the Championship Yankee teams he played on in the 1940’s and ’50’s, the great Yankees pitcher, Vic Raschi, said: “my best pitch is anything the batter grounds, lines, or pops in the direction of Rizzuto.” Great praise, indeed.
Phil Rizzuto won the 1950 American League MVP Award with a .324 batting average, after finishing second in the MVP voting in 1949 to the great Boston Red Sox leftfielder, Ted Williams.
1950 was Phil Rizzuto’s best year with the Yankees, as he scored 125 runs, with 200 hits; 92 base-on-balls; 36 doubles; 7 triples; 7 homeruns; 66 RBI’s; while striking out only 39 times, recording a .324 batting average; and .418 on-base percentage, batting 617 times in 155 games.
Probably the greatest praise of how valuable Phil Rizzuto was to the New York Yankees, came many years later from Ted Williams. While a member of the “Veterans Committee”, stating the case for Rizzuto’s induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, Williams argued, “Rizzuto was the main difference between the Yankees and Red Sox. If we had Rizzuto in Boston we would have won all those pennants [during that era] instead of the Yankees.”
Phil Rizzuto played on seven World Series winning teams; appeared in five All-Star games; had his #10 retired by the Yankees in 1985; and, was enshrined in Baseball’s “Hall of Fame” in 1994.
In addition to the praise given by Ted Williams, much praise in honor of the greatness of Phil Rizzuto through the years was given by many who watched Rizzuto play, including, Ty Cobb, who said, “Phil Rizzuto and Stan Musial were two of the few modern players [at the time] who could hold their own among the old-timers.”
The great Yankees Manager, Casey Stengel, said, “Rizzuto is the greatest shortstop I have ever seen in my entire baseball career, and I have watched some beauties.”
And, Joe DiMaggio, decades after his retirement, said, “People loved watching me play baseball. Scooter, they just loved.”
Well, that final quote by the great Joe DiMaggio, kind of sums up how all Yankee fans, and many throughout baseball felt about Phil Rizzuto, including myself, as I credit “The Scooter” for helping me become a life-long/die-hard Yankees fan, listening to Phil talk about the great Yankee players, teams, and tradition, in the broadcast booth, from my first days following baseball and the New York Yankees.
Scooter, you are missed; and, will always be loved by all Yankee and baseball fans.
Thank You, for all the memories.
To view Phil Rizzuto’s lifetime stats, click on …
To view Phil Rizzuto’s biography, click on …
Thank You, to all who have visited my mlblog !!!
— Jimmy Curran, “Baseball, The Yankees, and Life”