Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto Dead (Or "How To Get The Words "Ass" And "Nuts" Into A Memorial Piece")

Holy cow, the Scooter is really gone.

It's safe to say that the TV announcer's voice that I've heard the most in my life is that of Phil Rizzuto's. If you're not from the tri-state area, you probably know him from either:

A. His voice in that Meat Loaf song. (I remember Phil once saying that Loaf, that huckleberry, tricked him into doing it, as he was unfamiliar with the whole "going all the way around the bases" euphemism.)

or B. That scene in Billy Madison where Miss Vaughn shows up Billy by giving him a word with those tricky Zs in it to write in cursive on the board.

or C. His playing career--that was a little before my time.

or D. The Seinfeld episode where Goerge gets a Scooter bobblehead doll and loses it under the street. [Edit: was the talking keychain doll, not a bobblehead. Thanks to the prick who corrected me on this. I'm not sorry I disappointed you with this post, Mr. Anonymous. (Who I know from my statcounter is that same old TrotMan7, workin' for that same company that starts with M. I'm gettin' real close to callin' that guy's boss. Good to know he still checks in with my blog that he hates so much, so often.)]

But I used to hear this guy every night. (Okay, whenever we didn't have the sound off because we were listening to the Red Sox game on the radio.) My memories of him go beyond "holy cow" and him talking about his wife, Cora, and his tales of leaving the game early to "get over the bridge."

I just hear his voice saying things like, "LLlow," to describe a pitch, preceded and followed by about a minute of silence. And when a ball would be headed for the fence, he'd sometimes say that the hit "didn't sound right," meaning the ball wouldn't carry out of the park. Or when he said Ed Jurak doesn't pronounce the J like a normal J because "that's how those huckleberries in New England say it." Or when a ball would hit the catcher in the nuts, upon seeing a replay, he'd say, "Oh, it rung the bell!" Or him calling his colleagues by their last name. Bill White="White." Tom Seaver="Seava."

Of course, I also will never forget those classic Money Store commercials. "Holy cow, the Money Store does it again! With rates as low as seven and a half pa-cent. That's right, seven and a half pa-cent!" And if they ever come out with a "Best of the Scooter" DVD, buy it. Trust me. They used to do montages of his "finest" work during Yankee rain delays on WPIX. (When they weren't showing Twilight Zones!) This guy once said a ball was gone, renegged and said it wasn't gone, then went back to his original prediction, all while the ball was in the air. It was like watching a game with your buddy who was rooting for one side.

Scooter was a big-time homer and a less-than-stellar announcer. But he was quite a character. I'll give him that. And I swear to Ken Coleman, if those Yankees use this to rally around, I will kick their asses.

When I was 6, we were asked to choose nicknames for ourselves, to be placed on the back of our Little League uniforms, which were just T-shirts. Mark Giacoia chose "Slider." I chose "Scooter." Not because of Phil, but because the Red Sox second baseman, Jerry Remy, was sometimes known as "Scooter," too. My dad didn't allow me to have that nickname, because to him, it was a Yankee nickname. I can't blame him for that call. Ironically, Remy went on to become, essentially, the Phil Rizzuto of the Red Sox--the little, lovable, offbeat announcer who used to play for the team, who's there with you every night. In a few more years, by my estimate, the "other Scooter" will pass Phil as my most-heard TV announcer, as I'm finally able to get the Red Sox on TV these days.

Scooter, we'll miss you--as your Yanks will miss the playoffs.

Good post, Jere. I can't believe Phil died. Actually, I thought he was already dead. Like you, growing up in western CT I heard a lot of Phil and White on TV and remember the blatant homerism. On Yankee hits it was "that's gone!, no wait the shortstop is settling under it" ( My dad told me only Mel Allen was worse), but there were times when the conversations they had were actually pretty funny. Kinda like Remy and Orsillo. And in the early 70's they didn't win much which was a lot of fun to watch. Have a great evening, hopefully enjoying another Sox win over the D-Rays.
By the way, excellent call by your dad, not letting you use Scooter. My LL nickname when I was 11 was Boog, being a lefty hitting first baseman that swung as hard as possible, just in case he hit it. I still get called Boog by the older kids I played with on those teams.
Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, Boog:)

I also was going to mention another place Phil appeared--but I didn't because I'm not sure about it. On The Brady Bunch, in the boys' room, there was a photo which I think is Pee Wee Reese sliding into Phil Rizzuto at second. Or something like that. THey also had Emmett Kelly, the Sad Clown, and the girls had that "Butterfly of Love" poster, among other things.
In my heart, I will hear forever..."I'm Phil Rizzuto for the Money Store!"

Ahhh, memories.
On Yankee hits it was "that's gone!, no wait the shortstop is settling under it" ( My dad told me only Mel Allen was worse)

Jerry Trupiano is quite upset at being overlooked in this conversation.
I talked about him a little in my comment in the post below, but a couple more thoughts on The Scooter:

Aside from the time I met him, I was also fortunate enough to be there at Yankee Stadium in August '85 for Phil Rizzuto Day. Of course, the more exciting thing that happened that day was Tom Seaver's 300th victory (big Seaver fan, still have the scorecard), but it was also nice to see Phil get his props (and to almost trip over the 'holy' cow that they gave him as a gag gift).

And while he really didn't belong in the HoF at all, I think it says a lot about him that Teddy Ballgame argued so vociferously for his inclusion. Ted, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr were his friends, and that also says a lot for him.

The Glory Days '47-'57 exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York has the story of how Casey rejected him when he tried out for the Dodgers in the late 30's by telling him to get a shoeshine box; apparently Casey and Eddie Stanky (who kicked the ball out of his glove in the '51 WS) were the only guys that Rizzuto didn't like much.

I think my favorite era was when Bill White and Frank Messer were getting a rise out of him in the mid-late 70's, but he was also fun paired w/Seaver in the late '80's. Vin Scully he wasn't, because you were better off tracking the game on your own that trying to follow Scooter's version of it, but it really didn't matter...he made the broadcasts great just by being his goofy self. I was just talking w/my folks, and we all felt that same sadness this morning when we heard the news.

I wouldn't worry too much about this current Yankee team rallying around his passing though, Jere...most of them have no idea who he is.

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