Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So long Scooter

Well folks:
By now I'm sure you heard the news, and for all us Yankee fans in our 30s or older, this is certainly a sad day with the passing of Phil Rizzuto.
Obviously I'm not old enough to remember his 13-year Hall of Fame playing career with the Bombers. I, probably like many of you out there, remember him more for the 40 years he served as a Yankee broadcaster.
I know the generation before me would call Mel Allen the voice of the Yankees. For me, it was Scooter.
He did everything a communications teacher would tell his/her students not to to do when it came to sports broadcasting. He was self-deprecating, funny and a Yankee loyalist through and through. Often times the game took a back seat to the numerous birthdays he mentioned, or the stories about the pasta he ate the night before.
And that's what made him that much more funny. He had a way of taking games where the Yankees were down by 10 runs (and those of you who followed the Yankees in the late 1980s and early 90s know there were a whole lot of them) and made it entertaining to watch.
The funniest story I remember from watching a Yankee game was when the Bombers were in Kansas City to play the Royals and he opened the broadcast by saying -- and this will be as close to word-for-word as I remember -- "good evening and welcome to New York Yankees baseball. I'm Bill White and ... wait a minute ... no, I'm Phil Rizzuto and he's Bill White. Oh, you Huckleberry White I forgot who I was."
I think Bill White was laughing about as hard as I am.
The other story I remember was a game in which I believe Jim Rice of the Red Sox hit a home run against the Yankees at the Stadium, one of those tape-measure jobs he seemed to hit every time the Sox played the Yanks and Bill White asked him, "Scooter, did you every hit any home runs like that."
Scooter's response, "No, White. I didn't get a chance to play in a Little League park."
Like I said, I never saw Rizzuto play in the 50s, but all I needed to know how great a player he was came from the legendary Ted Williams, who said the difference between the great Yankee teams of 40s and early 50s and the Red Sox was Rizzuto played for the Yankees.
But when it came to broadcasting they certainly broke the mold when they created Rizzuto.
Rest in peace, Scooter. And thank you for my early years of watching the Yankees so memorable.
Take care and God bless.

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