Phil Rizzuto, the sure-handed Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop nicknamed The Scooter, who punctuated his extended Yankee life as a broadcaster with birthday wishes to nuns and exclamations of “Holy cow!” died today. He was 89. His death was confirmed by the Yankees. Rizzuto played for the Yankees from 1941 to 1956. His departure was abrupt. No longer willing to carry an aging, seldom-used infielder, the team cut him on Old-Timers’ Day. Soon after, he began calling Yankee games for WPIX-TV/Channel 11 and did not leave that role until 1996.
Rizzuto played an integral role on the dynastic Yankees before and after World War II. He was a masterly bunter and defensive specialist for teams that steamrolled to 10 American League pennants and nine World Series championships. He was one of 12 Yankees on teams that swept to five consecutive World Series triumphs, from 1949 to 1953.
He was a 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound sparkplug who did the little things right, from turning the pivot on a double play to laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt. He left the slugging to powerful teammates like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller and Yogi Berra.
“I hustled and got on base and made the double play,” he said of his role. “That’s all the Yankees needed in those days.”
NEW YORK TIMES: A major league career was not foreordained. While attending Richmond Hill High School, he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the team’s manager, Casey Stengel, told him he was too small. The New York Giants told him to get lost. But Stengel’s rejection — “Go get a shoeshine box,” the manager told him — was the most vivid.