Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto, dead at 89


Ex-Yankees player and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto passed away today. I listened to The Scooter during my prime baseball-fan days, as an adolescent, and he shaped my feeling for the game. I loved the way he combined a passion for baseball with a clear awareness that it was just a game, not to be taken too seriously.

He was known for his distinctive “Holy Cow!” exclamation, and I also loved how he called people “huckleberry.” During his prime as a Yankees broadcaster, he teamed up with classic straight man Bill White. They made a great duo, the wise-cracking, diminutive old Italian-American bantering with the tall, distinguished African-American.

During broadcasts, Phil would get so involved in anecdotes, stories, or noting fans’ birthdays and anniversaries, that he would forget all about the game. The resulting non-sequitors made for classic TV and radio. And if a summer thunderstorm passed by the Stadium, he would literally run out of the broadcast booth to find shelter!

Years ago, the Village Voice took a few classic Phil monologues and transcribed them into poetic form. It was pure brilliance. Eventually, Tom Peyer & Hart Seely put together a whole book of his “selected verse.” Here are some of my favorite Rizzuto “poems”:

Field of Butterflies
If you don’t get a little,
A few butterflies,
No matter what you do,
On the first day of anything,
You’re not human.

— April 12, 1991 (opening day)

Time and Money
Puckett had asked for time!
Puckett had asked for time!
And the plate umpire was on the ball.

Remember the time that cost Don Money
A grand-slam home run in Milwaukee?

See him there.
He’s holding the hand.
That’s when he asked for it.
And everybody watching,
The pitcher and the runner,
Didn’t see him call…

—May 8, 1987

When Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a small plane crash in 1979, Phil said a prayer for the team captain that included this little pearl at the end, doubly appropriate now:

Faith. You gotta have faith.
You know, they say time heals all wounds,
And I don’t quite agree with that a hundred percent.
It gets you to cope with wounds.
You carry them the rest of your life.

— August 3, 1979

One thought on “Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto, dead at 89

  1. Yeah, when I lived in Chicago in the mid-90s, I was surprised to hear Harry Carey using the “Holy Cow” phrase as well. I thought it was a Scooter original. Maybe it was a generational thing? Like now, all the sportscasters say “Boo-yeah”?
    Oh, and welcome to LJ!

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