Sad news from the world of baseball on Tuesday–NY Yankees mainstay Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame, passed away in his sleep after a lengthy illness at the age of 89. Growing up in New York and New Jersey in the sixties, Rizzuto’s voice was baseball to me–in much the same way that Marv Albert was basketball and hockey as the broadcast voice of the Knicks and Rangers. I must have spent more time listening to his witticisms, hokey jokes, anecdotes, trademark “Holy Cow” exclamation, and (of course) those ubiquitous “Money Store” lending company commercials on WPIX – Channel 11 and radio than I’d care to calculate.
The diminutive shortstop (5′ 6″)–who had been told by his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers that he was too small to play for their team–had an amazing run as a New York Yankee on the field and in the booth for over 50 years. In his 13-year playing career (interrupted by a 3-year stint in the armed forces during WW II), he was a five-time All Star, won the World Series a remarkable seven times, and was the American League MVP in 1950 after finishing second in the voting to Ted Williams the year before. Number 10 followed his playing days with 40 years in the broadcast booth covering the Yankees, and in the process put a smile on everyone’s face who was listening. Who knows how many people like myself fell in love with the sport as a child by hearing it filtered through the wit and wisdom of “The Scooter.”
Rest in Peace Phil Rizzuto (1917 – 2007).