Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stop Right There

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the death of Phil Rizzuto. I am among those who believe he was a shaky Hall of Fame selection; indeed, he was only elected by the veterans committee in his 33rd year of Hall eligibility, and even then only when a sufficient number of former teammates were put on that committee. But as a broadcasting aficionado, I grew to love him just like most other baseball fans, even though I generally detest the Yankees.

Two of my favorite things about Rizzuto:

1). I used to love seeing the Yankee games on cable late in his broadcasting career when they'd show a shot of the GW bridge around the 7th inning and wonder aloud where the just-departed-to-beat-the-traffic Scooter might now be on his commute home.

2). If you grew up in the 70's, you likely heard Rizzuto's play-by-play even if you didn't care a thing about baseball. He's the announcer in Meat Loaf's song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." "Here's the play at the plate! Holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!"

It often seemed like Rizzuto was watching a different game than the one taking place on the field. He got the call wrong almost as often as he got it right, and frequently seemed confused even before it could be blamed on age. Usually I hate that kind of thing. (Listening to a Cubs broadcast with Ron Santo on satellite radio recently, for instance, made me want to vomit. He has no business being in a broadcast booth.) But with Rizzuto, it was fun and endearing.

Perhaps its a tribute to him that I didn't even realize he'd retired from broadcasting more than a decade ago. When I heard yesterday that he had died, I hoped he hadn't died in some hotel room on the road like Richie Ashburn did. The Scooter was a fixture; you just figured he'd always been there and always would be.

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