Philip Francis Rizzuto (September 25, 1917 – August 13, 2007), nicknamed “The Scooter”, was an American Major League Baseball shortstop. He spent his entire 13-year baseball career with the New York Yankees (1941–1956), and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
A popular figure on a team dynasty that captured 10 AL titles and seven World Championships in his 13 seasons, Rizzuto holds numerous World Series records for shortstops. His best statistical season was 1950, when he was named the American League‘s Most Valuable Player. Despite this offensive peak, Rizzuto was a classic “small ball” player, noted for his strong defense in the infield. The slick-fielding Rizzuto is also regarded as one of the best bunters in baseball history. When he retired, his 1,217 career double plays ranked second in major league history, trailing only Luke Appling‘s total of 1,424, and his .968 career fielding average trailed only Lou Boudreau‘s mark of .973 among AL shortstops. After his playing career, Rizzuto enjoyed a 40-year career as a radio and television sports announcer for the Yankees. His idiosyncratic style and unpredictable digressions charmed listeners, while his lively play-by-play brought a distinct energy to his broadcasts. He was well known for his trademark expression “Holy Cow!”.
Like many players of the era, his career was interrupted by a stint in the United States Navy during World War II. From 1943 through 1945, he played on a Navy baseball team alongside Dodgers shortstop Reese; the team was managed by Yankees catcher Bill Dickey. In 1947 Rizzuto recorded a .969 fielding average, breaking Crosetti’s 1939 team record for shortstops of .968. He broke his own record the following year with a .973 mark.
From Baseball in Wartime:
Philip F “Phil” Rizzuto was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 25, 1917. He played both baseball and football at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, New York.
He was signed by the Yankees in 1937, and the diminutive shortstop batted .307 in his rookie major league season with the Yankees in 1941. The following season, Rizzuto was an American League all-star but it was his last season in professional baseball for the duration of the war.
Rizzuto served with the Navy at Norfolk Naval Training Station in 1943 where he played baseball on a regular basis. He was later in charge of 20mm gun crew on a ship in the Pacific, but contracted malaria while in New Guinea. Rizzuto was sent to Australia to recover and coached the US Navy baseball team while there.
Rizzuto was back with the Yankees in 1946, but his first after three years of military service, was one of his worse offensively, batting just .252. Rizzuto would soon turn things around and by the time he retired after the 1956 season, Scooter had appeared in nine World Series and been named to five All-Star teams.
Phil Rizzuto later became a broadcaster for the Yankees. His uniform No 10 was retired by the Yankees August 4, 1985 on Phil Rizzuto Day, but he ended up being upstaged by Tom Seaver, who pitched his 300th career victory that afternoon for the Chicago White Sox. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Phil Rizzuto passed away on August 14, 2007. He was 89 years old.