In case you haven't been paying attention or don't really care, baseball lost a great envoy this week. Phil Rizzuto wasn't just a great shortstop and great New York Yankee, he was greatly responsible for me loving baseball.
I was born in 1971 and some of the earliest memories I have of my father revolve around him coming into my bedroom to say goodnight and tuning in the Yankees games for me on a transistor radio. I listened to the exploits of Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson et al through Scooter's descriptions and stories. My love for the Yankees was born in those moments and refined over years and years. Listening to Phil shout "Holy Cow" into the microphone punctuated some of the greatest sports moments of the 1970's and my childhood.
Like many people who lived in Essex County, NJ I have my own Phil Rizzuto story, and it isn't just about the time I ran into him at the Millburn Diner with his wife Cora. In his later years Scooter was big on strolling around the local malls. He had a secretary that drove him around the area and he would shop and chat with people during the day. I used to get my hair cut at the Livingston Mall and as I was popping in for a trim he was walking out of the mall.
"Mr. Rizzuto," I said, reaching out to shake his hand, "I just wanted to tell you what a big fan I am and thank you."
I spent a few moments relating how my dad used to turn the games on and how my love of the Yankees was born listening to his voice.
He smiled and said, "Holy Cow! What a memory you've got!"
I laughed and beamed as he went on about his business. I know he threw his catch phrase around pretty liberally, but that one was just for me.
Rest in peace.