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August 14, 2007

Remembering Phil Rizzuto

I just heard the news about 15 minutes ago. At this time, I want to repeat what I wrote in the very first entry ever at WasWatching.com (back on April 20, 2005):

Up until the time I was 34 years old, I had the pleasure of listening to Phil Rizzuto broadcast New York Yankees games. For those who cannot do the math, the Scooter did Yankees games from 1957 through 1996 and I was born in 1962.

Talking about some long-term baseball announcer, someone once said (and I think it was Bob Costas but I could be wrong) that the announcer’s voice was the male voice that was most heard in their house after his father. Listening to Phil for nearly a quarter-century, it was something like that for myself as well.

Phil was always entertaining to me. And, one of the items (with respect to his coverage) that always stayed with me was his habit of scrawling “WW” on his scorecard for plate appearances where he “wasn’t watching.”

As a result, when I decided to start a Yankees-focused Weblog, almost out of the chute, I thought that WasWatching.com would be an appropriate handle. After all, my intent for this blog is to provide running commentary, personal musings, and the like, on the Yankees. In order to do this, I will have to do the opposite of “WW” – meaning that I have to watch what is going on.

Paying (in a way) some homage to the Scooter in the naming process is the icing on the cake. Or, should I say that’s the powdered sugar on the cannoli? I could go on some more about this; but, I want to beat the bridge traffic.

As you can imagine, I'm a big fan of Phil Rizzuto.

Earlier this year, I had learned that Scooter was not doing well. So, while I find myself very sad now to learn of his passing, I'm also somewhat relieved to hear that his recent suffering has ended.

Back in mid-April, I exchanged a few e-mails with Rizzuto's grand-daughter, Jennifer Rizzuto Congregane, as I was hoping to find a way to have fans send Phil a card, to let him know that he (and best wishes for him) were on their mind. At that time, it seemed like the family was more interested in protecting Rizzuto's right to privacy. I fully understood that, and respected that wish, which is why I've never mentioned this effort before, here. But, I also knew then that Phil's time was probably coming to an end - sooner rather than later. So, while today's news is upsetting, it's also not shocking.

There's a line featured in the book Tuesdays With Morrie that goes like this: Death ends a life, not a relationship.

To me, there have never been words more true.

To all the fans of Phil Rizzuto out there today, remember, while his life may have ended today, your relationship with the Scooter has not, and it will never end. So, don't be too sad now - although I know it's hard when you hear news like this today. Remember to be happy that you had a chance to enjoy what Rizzuto had to offer - and, remember that experience will be with you, as long as you want it to remain with you.

Rest in peace, Scooter. And, thanks for everything. You'll always be with this Yankee fan - and, I suspect, millions of others as well.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 14, 2007 12:14 PM

Comments

I used to love listening to Rizzuto as a kid and actually got the pleasure to meet him at an autograph signing when I was a kid. He signed a picture to me and my brother saying "Good luck Joe and Ant" RIP Scooter.

Posted by: antone [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 12:57 PM

It's funny, for all the Yankee games I saw as kid, the words I always hear/replay when I first think of Rizzuto has nothing to do with baseball but the money store commercials: "This is Phil Rizzuto for the Money Store".

~~~Remember to be happy that you had a chance to enjoy what Rizzuto had to offer - and, remember that experience will be with you, as long as you want it to remain with you.~~~

True, true. I look it as a way of celebrating his life.

RIP Scooter.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 01:37 PM

My entire childhood association with the Yankees is tied to Scooter and Billy White's voices. When we were kids playing stickball or baseball in the park, any time one of us hit a homer, it was always "Holy Cow, there it goes!"

As Boss put it, “I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop.” RIP Scooter. I'll always think of you when I watch a ballgame on TV.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 02:09 PM

As much as Bob Shepard is the voice of the Yankees, whenever I watch a Yankees game I can hear Scooter's voice -- especially when someone doesn't get a bunt down correctly.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 02:14 PM

He was my favorite Yankee. Growing up, I'd play shortstop in my backyard. After turning the double play with my legs scissor kicking in the air (the first baseman was an unpainted fence), I would retrieve the ball. As I walked over, I would provide my expert recap of the play: "Holy Cow, White -- what a double play." Already I realized that I had a greater chance for success in the booth than on the diamond.

Just yesterday in a discussion about John Sterling's 500th HR call, I wondered how the Scooter would have delivered the call and if Rizzuto would be around for the next Yankee milestone. Now we know that he won't, but I am sure the Yankees will honor him with grace tonight and for the rest of the season. I hope they include a joke about a "Huckleberry" or how a day without cannolis is like a day without sunshine, and maybe a rambling story or two, because I am sure the Scooter would have wanted everyone to laugh when they remember him.

Posted by: SubwayHeroes [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 02:41 PM

One of the reasons I was attracted to this blog, and to you Steve, was it's name and the fact that you loved the Scooter.

Like many of you, I grew up watching Phil and listening to him on the radio as I fell asleep each night. I started w/ the Yanks in the early '60's, so I caught most of Phil's games.

I live nearby Phil's home in Hillside and had the honor of running into him 3 times over the yr's. The last time was about 5 yr's ago.

Each time I couldn't resist stopping him and ea time we talked Yankee baseball for about a 1/2 hour. I felt like I was talking w/ a favorite uncle. He was kind enough to treat me as a favorite niece.

I loved listening to him call a game. I loved when he talked about anthing but the game, esp when he felt like it was helping them come from behind. If he started wishing people happy birthday and the Yanks happened to score a run, he'd keep going till there were 3 outs.

I loved his interaction w/ Frank Messer and esp Bill White - "White". They'd try to get back to the game and Phil would talk about canolies.

I loved hearing about his family. Esp his beloved Cora.

I loved how excited he was when Derek Jeter started his rookie yr. I knew we had a gem when Phil couldn't stop talking about how good he was in April 1996. When I ran into him the last time I asked him how he thought Derek compared to him as a player. As you'd expect, this humble man said he didn't hold a candle to Jeter.

Steve, I know how you feel tonight. Phil was one of a kind. Those of us fortunate enough to have watched and listened to him were very fortunate.

Godspeed Phil.

Posted by: redbug [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 05:27 PM

Like for a lot of people, Scooter's voice opened the door to baseball for me, triggering a passion that burns as bright today as the first time I picked up a bat. I still remember getting a bunting clinic from him during his visit to my little league, lessons I harp on while coaching my daughters' softball teams. I remember a fist fight with a neighborhood kid (a Met fan) that said Scooter was a bad announcer that always pulled for the Yankees and never talked about their mistakes. I nick-named first daughter Scooter. Every so often some blowhard (like Lupica) will say, "I don't know what these guys are talking about regarding so and so as being, or not being a "Real Yankee". Phil was, and is, a real Yankee. Always will be.

Posted by: #15 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 05:52 PM

Very nice Steve. I spent a lot of time in the car today and had a chance to think back about The Scooter. He really was a huge part of my childhood and early adult life.

I remember going to Phil Rizzuto Day in 1985. The same day Tom Seaver was going for his 300th win. I'll never forget that amidst all the fanfare The Scooter said (this is pretty close): "Now Tom Seaver is a great pitcher and someday he'll get his 300th win. But let it not be today." The crowd erupted.

It was classic Rizzuto. Always thinking about the Yankees. Always rooting for them to win. Always a Yankee first. A Huckleberry in the best sense of the word.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 06:55 PM

Great writing, Steve. As a kid from Nebraska I can't say I have the attachment you guys do to Phil (the only time I've really heard him is on the various DVDs), but it's been nice reading everyone's thoughts. Baseball needs more announcers like that instead of the Joe Bucks of the world...

Posted by: JeremyM [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2007 09:25 PM

Went to my first Yankees game 9/02/61. My neighbor's brother was producer of the games for WPIX. He took us to the radio booth to meet Phil and Mel Allen. Scooter could not have been nicer to a little kid like me. He walked me to the post game Red Barber show studio and asked me what i thought. I remember asking why was Al Kaline the post game guest when the Yanks won 7-2 and Mantle had hit a HR ? His response to my dad was "Holy Cow what a diehard Yankee fan" .
I felt the loss yesterday but relived a great memory.

Posted by: Santino53 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2007 09:34 AM

I'll always remember the way my father described "Little Phil" when I was a kid. Dad was, and is, a die-hard Yankee fan and I LOVED the Dodgers. Dad revered The Scooter.

I was privileged to meet him briefly and I describe the experience here:

http://give-n-go.blogspot.com/2007/08/so-long-scooter.html

Posted by: joeystoy [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2007 07:35 PM

Growing up in Jersey, I heard Phil many evenings in my youth. I'm saddended in the same way I felt when I heard Bob Murphy had passed.

I drew a cartoon in memory of Phil - www.xsandohs.com.

Your comments and opinions are greatly appreciated.

Posted by: cheesebugs [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2007 01:07 AM