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”: