The late Phil Rizzuto is in the baseball Hall of Fame for his ability as a shortstop and the intangibles he brought to those championship New York Yankees clubs. But I also believe he belongs in the broadcasters’ wing at Cooperstown.
Rizzuto was an accomplished broadcaster, calling Yankees games for five decades. Fans will recall his zany antics and quirks on the air. Those characteristics endeared him to his audience and arguably made him the most popular broadcaster in the club’s history. “The Scooter” connected with his audience. One of the measurements of a good broadcaster is did he connect with the listener. But the Rizzuto who rooted on the air, much to the annoyance of his critics, was also a very good announcer.
When he was in his prime as a broadcaster, say 1960 to early 80’s, he could describe a play and transmit the excitement of a game or a moment as well as anyone behind a microphone. His call of the then record-breaking 61st home run by Roger Maris is a classic. This was the Rizzuto who knew who was warming up in the bullpen without asking his broadcast partner – and he coexisted with numerous partners and made them all sound great, another attribute – who didn’t leave early to beat the traffic, who could talk about the other clubs and players with detailed analysis. Many of his broadcasts are available on You Tube. Give a listen and draw your own conclusions.
Rizzuto was also a versatile broadcaster. For example, how many people know that in the spring of 1965, when the Spalding Sporting Goods Company released a LP record (remember those?) of radio sports highlights, the narrator was Rizzuto? Phil also hosted a daily sports show on the CBS radio network. Recently, I unearthed one of those broadcasts in my vast collection. It is from Feb. 20, 1970, the day embattled pitcher Denny McLain met with baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. I posted the show on one of my You Tube channels and I leave it with you here. Enjoy. Meanwhile, maybe it’s time to launch another campaign to get Phil in the hall, the Phil many remember as a beloved broadcaster and not a shortstop.