My man Sliced Bread at Bronx Banter hit the board with some sad news: Phil Rizzuto, “The Scooter” to many, passed away today (Aug. 14). Apparently, the news was first posted on Wikipedia, but was soon followed up by radio 1010WINS in New York.
I won’t attempt to give a biography and retrospect of the man, for I only knew him in my lifetime as a television icon for the New York Yankees. Of course he was a winning shortstop on many winning Yankee teams in their 40-50s dynasty, but in my time he was known as the affable homer “Scooter”, coloring the Yankee games with a unique set of crayons with his pal and fellow booth mate Bill White. “Holy Cow” was such a signature saying that it even spawned, among other things, an ice cream parlor in upstate Red Hook, NY.
You see, my family and I were log-cabining in Norrie State Park in Staatsburg, and since we liked exploring, we’d either walk or ride around the countryside, taking in the beautiful scenery. By chance, we passed a plaza and Mom yells out, “Holy Cow!” Thinking she was being nutty again, I shook my head and kept daydreaming, when Dorothy nudged me in the side. “No, really – Holy Cow!” she said, pointing out the window. To our left, we were passing a ranch-type building with big block letters on the roof, which read, “Holy Cow! Ice Cream Parlor” That was a helluva laugh, to be sure.
The next day, Mom had a notion, and we drove right back up the same route, pulling into the lot next to the parlor. We went inside, greeted by a bright interior with pictures of cows wearing Yankee caps and framed newspaper clippings about the store, among other things. One of those other things happened to be a picture, personally inscribed by the man himself, with a huge smile on his face:
“Holy Cow! With a name like that, it’s gotta be good ice cream!” Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto.
And you know what? It definitely was.
Scooter was as much the face of the Yankees as Ruth, DiMaggio, Yogi, Mantle, Steinbrenner, Reggie, Donnie and Jeter. But as opposed to them (with the exception of Yogi), Phil was one of us. It was the reverence for the man as a homegrown icon of our youthful experiences and our everyday lives that finally elected him to the Hall of Fame, more than his numbers as a player. I suppose had Buck O’Neill, another player of his generation from the Negro Leagues, who became the goodwill ambassador of baseball itself, simply been a Yankee at any point of his career, I think there would be no question at all about his place in the pantheons of the Hall of Fame. But that takes nothing away from Scooter. He defined an era for not only Yankee teams, but Yankee fans. His signature call was honest and clean; definitely rooting for the home team as much as Harry Carey, but just as much welcome in its place. And, teamed with the impeccable Bill White (who went on to become National League President), they became in my opinion one of the most significant tandems in broadcast history.
I’m thinking that this weekend, I’d like to go upstate to Red Hook and get myself a large soft-serving of chocolate-vanilla twist-in-a-cup with sprinkles. Rest in peace, Scooter, you did good. >;)
(For those who may be interested, here’s the address):
Holy Cow! Ice Cream
7270 S Broadway (Route 9)
Red Hook, NY 12571