Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Scooter

The Yankee family lost one its most beloved members yesterday with the passing of Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto who was know as the scooter was the Yankees shortstop during the 40's and 50's and went on to a long and colorful career in the broadcast booth. The scooter was a diminutive figure who was passed on by a couple of teams because they thought he was too small to play professional baseball. He persevered and eventually ended on the Yankees. He went on to play on seven world series winners and won the MVP award in 1950. He went straight to the broadcast booth after his career on the field ended and he went on to become something of a cultural icon. He will probably always remain best known for his stirring play by play call on Meatloaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights".

The Yankees are honoring his memory by wearing his number 10 on their sleeves. I wrote a column in February about what a mistake it was for the Yankees to wear black arm bands for Cory Lidle. Now they have to go to the extra step of adding Rizzuto's number to their uniforms in order to have a proper tribute. It's like the Hall of Fame adding Luis Sojo and then having to create a special building to honor the likes of Ruth and Mays. A moment of silence would have been more than enough. Now that they've honored the memory of Corey Lidle in the same way they did Joe DiMaggio, they had to come up with something else to honor their truly legendary players.

On a personal note, I grew up listening to Phil Rizzuto broadcast Yankee games. He often spent a lot of time talking about the pastries that people had sent him and birthdays and anniversaries. I became so used to the rambling stories of Rizzuto that it was always a disappointment when he wasn't in the booth. I was actually at the stadium for Phil Rizzuto day (I was there to watch Tom Seaver win his 300th game), and when the cow that was presented to him knocked him over, it seemed somehow perfectly appropriate. Phil hasn't been in the broadcast booth for over a decade but I still miss his stories about cannolis, his wife Cora and his constant confusion over the names of Frank Messer and Bobby Mercer. He was definitely one of a kind. I feel fairly certain in saying that we won't see his like again for some time.

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