Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Number of Days Until Spring Training: Phil Rizzuto (#10)

10 World Series Titles despite spending three years in the Navy. TEN. Ten. 10. Diez. Dix. Dieci. Scooter played for 13 years and won the World Series in 10 of them. Unfathomable.

This is how his playing career ended.
The end of the line for Rizzuto as a player came on Old-Timers Day at the Stadium Aug. 25, 1956, the same day the Yankees claimed outfielder Enos Slaughter off waivers from the Kansas City Athletics. Rizzuto met with club officials, who were discussing ways to get Slaughter on the 25-man roster that had to be cemented within the week for his eligibility for a possible World Series.

Rizzuto realized that he was the player the Yankees intended to release, which they did. He maintained that Stengel and general manager George Weiss reneged on a promise that if the Yankees made the Series, Rizzuto would be put on the roster as the backup for Gil McDougald, the regular shortstop, but Hunter was kept instead.

The part that doesn't really come across in that piece, is that Stengel kept going through the roster and making Phil suggest people, until he finally settled on himself. He was justifiably fuming mad that the organization would go about letting him go in such an undignified fashion, but never burned that bridge.

Rizzuto went on to spend 40 years in the broadcasting booth endearing himself to Yankees fans with a very unique and quirky style, leaving early to beat the traffic and saying "Holy Cow!". I'm a little to young to remember his broadcasting style, but most older Yanks fans I know say that he came across like your favorite Uncle.

In the weeks after he passed away in 2007, a squirrel made several appearances on the right field foul pole, leading many to make the the connection and call the squirrel Scooter.

If he wasn't universally considered one of the nicest guys in all of baseball, maybe he would have spurned the Yankees after the way they let him go and never came back to the organization. Who knows? It's late, but it's probably good that Phil provides some good karma at the end of an angry Tuesday.

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