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Arriverci, Scooter.
August 14, 2007 4:57 PM   Subscribe

A shortstop extraordinaire, loan pitchman, vocal accompanist, announcing icon. and friend to yogi's ...has left the building. RIP, Scooter.
posted by jonmc (38 comments total)

 
When I was a kid, I remeber telling my dad who was inducted into the Hall of Fame one year. "Did Phil Rizzuto get in?" he asked and when I said no, he shook his head in disbelief. The Scooter was a five time all-star, an American league MVP, and the first mystery guest on 'What's My Line?'

He will be missed.
posted by jonmc at 5:00 PM on August 14, 2007


I remember him more for his broadcasts, but he was definitely a legend. RIP.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:02 PM on August 14, 2007


Holy cow.

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posted by dersins at 5:03 PM on August 14, 2007


It takes a lot for me to take my hat off for a Yankee, but the Scooter was a fixture of my childhood and a swell guy. So hats off Scoot, godspeed. What a huckleberry, you take a better game than is played now with you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:15 PM on August 14, 2007


What's the Money Store gonna do?

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posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:24 PM on August 14, 2007


RIP, you huckleberry.
posted by psmealey at 5:27 PM on August 14, 2007


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Aww man. Phil Rizzuto's gone? What a bummer. Ciao, paisan'...
posted by zoogleplex at 5:31 PM on August 14, 2007


Oh, Phil Rizzuto! For a second I thought I. Lewis Libby had died. Damn Bush Administration. They're even destroying some perfectly good nicknames.

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posted by wendell at 5:32 PM on August 14, 2007


Bunted down the third base line! The squeeze is on! Here he comes, squeeze play, it's gonna be close! Here's the throw, here's the play at the plate...holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!

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posted by yqxnflld at 5:33 PM on August 14, 2007


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posted by From Bklyn at 5:53 PM on August 14, 2007


You forgot "poet".

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posted by Flunkie at 5:56 PM on August 14, 2007


Fair enough, but he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame (as a player); he only got in because he was a Yankee, with those championship rings. On merit along, he's one of the weakest inductees in HoF history.
posted by hincandenza at 6:23 PM on August 14, 2007


Fair enough, but he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame (as a player); he only got in because he was a Yankee, with those championship rings. On merit along, he's one of the weakest inductees in HoF history.

Certainly not the weakest, though.
posted by dw at 6:32 PM on August 14, 2007


HOLY COW!

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posted by lovejones at 6:39 PM on August 14, 2007


Fair enough, but he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame (as a player); he only got in because he was a Yankee, with those championship rings.
This is commonly claimed. He was, by all accounts, a phenomenal fielder, which is (or at least was, in his day) the primary duty of the shortstop.

In fact, Bill James' "Win Shares" system has him, on a runs-saved-per-inning-played basis, as better -- way better -- than probably any shortstop you can name.

Way better than, for example, Ozzie Smith.
posted by Flunkie at 7:05 PM on August 14, 2007


Phenomenal fielder, as noted by Flunkie, and also a very good hitter. If he hadn't lost several years to World War II (as many did) he would've very likely broken 2000 hits, among other things. There was an article on SI.com today about this, with more detail.

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posted by inigo2 at 7:16 PM on August 14, 2007


Incidentally, he also had both a higher on base percentage and a higher slugging average than Ozzie Smith.

And that continues to be true even if you normalize them relative to the average player of their respective eras.

Is Ozzie Smith not a Hall of Famer, "on merit"?
posted by Flunkie at 7:17 PM on August 14, 2007


Fair enough, but he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame (as a player); he only got in because he was a Yankee,

Kind of ironic it was Ted Williams that lobbied for years to get him in through the veterans committee - On pure numbers I might agree he's a stretch, but he did some things better than a lot of players. His diminutive size alone (5'6", 160lbs) should offset say, 20 or 30 missing points in career batting average, on principle at least.

Not sure if it's still the case, but he long held the record for the most innings at shortstop without an error.
posted by jalexei at 7:35 PM on August 14, 2007


Kind of ironic it was Ted Williams that lobbied for years to get him in through the veterans committee
In fact, Williams argued that if Rizzuto had been on the Red Sox, they, and not the Yankees, would have been the ones to win all those pennants.

So this "only got in because he was a Yankee, with those championship rings" comment is, if you believe Ted Williams, entirely backwards.

And I want to go back and point out exactly what I meant by "way better than Ozzie Smith", because I don't think many people realize how extraordinary it is:

Take all the players who played 10,000 innings or more at shortstop. This is already an elite group - they are the people who were good enough to play for a long time at the most important defensive position (other than pitcher). There are only 82 such players (at least as of a few years ago).

They averaged 5.72 defensive win shares per 1000 innings. This is much better than the average shortstop - as noted, these 82 guys were the cream of the defensive crop.

Ozzie Smith - universally acknowledged as one of the finest defensive shortstops of all time, had 6.42 defensive win shares per 1000 innings. That's 0.70 more than the typical elite shortstop.

Rizzuto?

7.14. That's 0.72 more than Smith.

As much better as Smith was than the typical elite shortstop, Rizzuto was that much better and more than Smith.

And he was a better hitter.

Again, a question for all of you putting down Rizzuto's HOF worthiness:

Is Ozzie Smith not deservingly a Hall of Famer?

I think he is.
posted by Flunkie at 7:51 PM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


While I certainly agree that Rizzuto was a great defensive shortstop, Fielding Win Shares are crap.

As an example, the leading AL SS in Fielding Win Shares is Orlando Cabrera. But he's middle of the pack in Zone Rating. The reason he's #1? Fielding percentage, which relies on the unreliable metric of "If geezer sportswriter had his bran flakes he'll be generous and rule it a hit."

Defensive Win Shares makes guys who let it squirt through look better than guys who make a few more mistakes but get to far more balls. The newer defensive metrics take a more holistic approach by focusing more on range.

Win Shares in general suck, but Defensive Win Shares are a quantum singularity of suck.
posted by dw at 8:14 PM on August 14, 2007


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Heh, I mostly remember him shilling "This is Phil Rizzuto for the Money Store!" on WPIX.
posted by orthogonality at 8:32 PM on August 14, 2007


I hate cursive, and I hate all of you!

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posted by sdrawkcab at 8:59 PM on August 14, 2007


Win Shares in general suck, but Defensive Win Shares are a quantum singularity of suck.
Be that as it may, it is pretty easy to find players -- and not just Yankee players, contrary to common implications -- who state that Rizzuto was the best they have ever seen.
posted by Flunkie at 8:59 PM on August 14, 2007


It is entirely fitting for the Scooter that this thread has descended into baseball nerdiness, entirely fitting. I doff my cap again, he was a good egg.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:28 PM on August 14, 2007


I was a security guard for the Yankees (and Mets and Madison Square Garden) from 1971 to 1979. One day in the early 70's, I was working at Gate 4 behind home plate (this was in the OLD Yankee Stadium).

I was talking to one of my work pals when Phil Rizzuto walked by (as the Senior announcer, he got to leave early if he wanted to). He overheard my friend mention Frank Sinatra. Phil stopped in his tracks, came over to us and said, "Sinatra! You're talking about Sinatra!"

He then proceeded to tell us what a great guy Sinatra was, how long he had known him and so forth for about ten minutes. Fans walking past couldn't believe that Phil Rizzuto was shooting the shit with a couple of stadium employees. That's the kind of guy the Scooter was; no airs about him at all.

The other memory I have of him was later in the 70's, in the current Yankee Stadium. By them, I had been "promoted" to working next to the Yankee dugout (some great stories there for another day).

Anyway, Rizzuto was interviewing someone, live on the air, in front of the dugout. Graig Nettles thought it would be funny to creep up behind Phil and throw a rubber snake over his shoulder. Rizzuto suddenly caught sight of it, thought it was a REAL snake and kind of yelped. He realized quickly it was fake and semi-recovered to finish the interview.

As soon as the camera was off, however, he pitched a HUGE fit at Nettles, telling him he would kick his ass if he ever embarassed him like that again. Nettles clearly felt bad; he didn't think Rizzuto would be that upset. Men getting paid to play a boy's game do silly things.
posted by Cranky Media Guy at 1:17 AM on August 15, 2007


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posted by Smart Dalek at 4:56 AM on August 15, 2007


Rizzuto's aversion to profanity was apparently legend. And this is my one Phil Rizzuto anecdote:

In Rizzuto's day, the broadcast booth at Yankee Stadium was not what one might call "sound-proof". Crowd noise leaked in constantly. Well, one day, a fan decided to start heckling Rizzuto. And by "heckle", I mean, bon mots like "PHIL, you SUCK!" and "Hey, PHIL, fuck YOU!" and the like. This went on for a little while, all clearly audible to Rizzuto and his broadcast partner, as well to the audience at home. Rizzuto tried at first to ignore it, then, when it defeated this attempt, to joke it away. Finally, when Rizzuto's boiling point had been presumably reached, he raised his voice and said, "Aw, ya...ya huckleberry!"

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posted by the sobsister at 5:36 AM on August 15, 2007


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posted by languagehat at 7:00 AM on August 15, 2007


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posted by Flood at 7:31 AM on August 15, 2007


Cranky Media Guy wrote:

By them, I had been "promoted" to working next to the Yankee dugout (some great stories there for another day).

I'm tempted to post an AskMefi thread if anyone knows any stories from being a security guard next to the dugout at Yankee stadium! Love to hear some of these stories. I've been watching The Bronx is Burning religiously and it is bringing back so many memories.

RIP Scooter you were basically the soundtrack to my childhood as I sat glued to the screen watching the Yankees play. He never lost his innocence and I think that is the greatest complement I can pay to anyone.
posted by any major dude at 8:55 AM on August 15, 2007


I'm tempted to post an AskMefi thread if anyone knows any stories from being a security guard next to the dugout at Yankee stadium! Love to hear some of these stories.

Seconded, thirded and fourthed.
posted by inigo2 at 10:01 AM on August 15, 2007


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posted by SBMike at 11:16 AM on August 15, 2007


One of the central themes of the Bill James book "What ever happened to the Hall of Fame?" is that Rizzuto was a terrible choice for induction to the Hall of Fame. I don't remember the arguments in detail, but IIRC some of them are that Rizzuto didn't really deserve the MVP in '50, that five All-star games is a very low total for a HOFer, that his career hitting stats are very low for a HOFer, and that his most comparable players statistically are by and large not in the Hall of Fame.

Still, he was a solid shortstop on a lot of great teams, and I enjoyed his announcing. He'll be missed.
posted by Kwine at 12:27 PM on August 15, 2007


.273
posted by sixpack at 12:49 PM on August 15, 2007


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posted by edverb at 2:06 PM on August 15, 2007


Fair enough, but he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame (as a player); he only got in because he was a Yankee

It's not nice to raise Kyle Farnsworth's hopes.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 2:47 PM on August 15, 2007


It's probably most telling that he didn't get in with his teammates, and ten years after Pee Wee Reese, who was his foil in Brooklyn.

But... whatever. Like most members of my generation, I enjoyed listening to him calling games with Bill White and Frank Messer back in the 70s. He was constantly losing track of the action on the field, and both would let him have it in a good natured way.

Rizzuto, with his cluelessness in the booth, and his bitterness about not getting into the HOF all those years could have been a pathetic figure, but his overwhelming good-naturedness seemed to trump that.
posted by psmealey at 4:55 PM on August 15, 2007


Phil Rizzuto was the opposite of a baseball nerd.
posted by Slap Factory at 9:08 PM on August 15, 2007


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