Rizzuto was a Baseball Hall of Famer shortstop for the Yankees, winning the League's MVP award in 1950 and quite a collection of world championship rings to call his own. A few years after he left the field, Rizzuto entered the broadcast booth for the team and was as much a fixture of the games as were those still playing on the field.
He was best known for two catch-phrases, "Holy Cow!" and calling a particular dunder-head a "Huckleberry". His Brooklyn/Bronx folksiness flavored all of his commentaries during the broadcasts, which inspired a collection of his unusual ramblings as poetry.
And he always made sure that he was out of the booth by the end of the sixth inning so he could cross the Bridge to get home to Jersey before the mass exodus began. Nobody else would be allowed to get away with that today!
His work for the Money Store and his appearances in connection with his Yankee heritage would be enough to establish the presence of his televersion. After all, he was so well-known for his work on the Yankee broadcasts that Jim Steinman and Meatloaf enlisted him to do the "play by play" for the song "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", and now how many other sportscasters can claim a platinum record among their trophies?
But there were a few other instances in which Phil Rizzuto solidified the presence of his televersion.
When sports agent Michael Arliss wanted to help his idol, down-and-out Hall of Famer Rocky Framaggio, Phil Rizzuto was on hand for the 'Arli$$' episode "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" in 1996.
A special keychain was made to celebrate Phil Rizzuto's entry into the Hall of Fame back in 1994. When you squeezed Phil's head, it would say "Holy Cow!". Unfortunately, George Steinbrenner dropped his copy at a construction site and it was paved over.
Back in the 1950s, Phil was known as Phil "Calhoun" Rizzuto in order to lure a Southern pitching wunderkind to sign with those "damned Yankees" - not that the term could be used back then! Phil wasn't alone in making the pitch to Hank Lumpkin (played by Dick Van Dyke) on that 'Bilko' episode "Hillbilly Whiz". Along for the ride were also Yogi "Ashley" Berra, Whitey "Stonewall" Ford, Gilbert "Beauregard" MacDougald, and Red Barber.
Phil Rizzuto was also the very first "mystery guest" on 'What's My Line?', one of the most popular panel game shows ever. And along with all the blipverts he did for the Money Store, he was also schilling for Yoo Hoo.
The timingof his passing is especially sad and ironic in that the 30th anniversary of the Yankee resurgence is being celebrated in Toobworld with a great mini-series, 'The Bronx Is Burning' on ESPN. I haven't noticed if his on-air commentary has been used during the recreations and actual replays of 1977 games, but I'm fairly certain we haven't seen him portrayed by an actor yet, as we have with Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and the Yankee roster.
Even for this Red Sox fan living in enemy territory, Phil Rizzuto was a beloved figure and Joe DiMaggio had it pegged when he said that the people loved him for the way he played baseball; but Scooter, they just loved.
Rest in Peace, Phil.
"I tell you this.
If the real Phil Rizzuto was down there, this wouldn't be happening!"
"Hard to say."