Phil “The Scooter” Rizzuto is honored this week for his service in the United States Navy and his successful career in baseball. He sacrificed some of his prime baseball playing years in order to serve during World War II at a time of great national need.
Rizzuto was born in Brooklyn in 1917 to Italian immigrant parents. He played both baseball and football in high school and was signed by the New York Yankees in 1937. He made his major league debut in 1941 as a shortstop, finishing the season with a batting average of .307. He was an American League All-Star the following season, before entering the U.S. Navy in 1943.
Rizzuto was stationed at the Norfolk Naval Training Station and continued to play baseball before being assigned to the Pacific Theater. While there, he was responsible for a 20mm gun crew on a ship but unfortunately became ill with malaria while in New Guinea. He was sent to Australia to recuperate and became the coach for the United States Naval Baseball team.
He was discharged in 1946 and returned to the Yankees but had one of his worst seasons ever because of his absence from baseball for three years. His career did take a turn for the better however, as he went on to be a major contributor to the Yankees dynasty. He captured 10 American League titles and 7 World Series Championships in his 13 seasons. His best year was in 1950, when he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
After retiring from his playing career, Rizzuto continued his career with the Yankees in a different capacity, as a legendary broadcaster. His legacy with the team continued when they celebrated Phil Rizzuto Day on August 4, 1985, retiring his uniform, number 10. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
The Foundation recognizes Phil Rizzuto for his efforts and willingness to serve his country. He left behind a prominent legacy in both the military and the baseball world.