Yankees recall Rizzuto's charm
Late legend's unmistakable style remembered by peers
NEW YORK -- Bobby Murcer couldn't have picked a better teacher in the broadcast booth than Phil Rizzuto. When Murcer hung up his spikes in 1983, he quickly jumped behind a microphone, where Rizzuto taught him the ins and outs of his new job.
Not to mention some other life lessons as well.
"I learned to like cannoli and cheeses and salamis and breads," Murcer laughed. "And I learned to be able to cut myself off before I weighed 400 pounds."
That's no small feat for a boy from Oklahoma -- and Murcer isn't the only one who remembers the legacy of one of the most popular Yankees in history. So on Sunday, some of Rizzuto's closest friends, teammates and family members gathered at Yankee Stadium to honor the Scooter, who died last month at age 89.
Former Yankees star Reggie Jackson and longtime buddy Yogi Berra made the trip to the Bronx, as did Rizzuto's wife of 64 years, Cora, and his four children. First Jackson, then Murcer took the microphone, both of them delighting the crowd with some of their favorite memories of one of their favorite Yankees.
The team also honored the Scooter with two video tributes, one of which played while Rizzuto's family and friends lined his plaque in Monument Park with flowers. And the Yankees announced a $25,000 donation to the Yogi Berra Museum in Rizzuto's name, after which Curt Ramm of Bruce Springsteen's Sessions band played "Taps" on the trumpet.
"He was what we all wanted to be like," Jackson told a swelled Sunday crowd. "When he was in your presence, he just made you feel good."
Rizzuto led the Yankees to seven World Series titles in a 13-year career, interrupted by a three-year stint in the Navy during World War II. Best known for his slick glove and scrappy style at shortstop, Rizzuto was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1994.
The Scooter then went on to earn even more acclaim as a broadcaster, coining his trademark "Holy Cow" catchphrase and pairing with such legends as Murcer, Mel Allen, Tom Seaver and Bill White, who was also in attendance on Sunday.
Yankees manager Joe Torre remembers growing up in Brooklyn and idolizing Rizzuto. He wasn't alone. Once his tenure as Yankees manager began, Torre would marvel every time an aging Rizzuto came to Yankee Stadium to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
"I don't care how old he was, he would always run out there on the field, Torre said. "That's sort of what the Scooter was all about."
And that's why he was beloved by multiple generations of Yankees fans. Rizzuto batted only .273 for his career and hit just 38 home runs. Didn't matter. Never will. He played alongside Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle -- and not for a second was he ever out of place. He was, and forever will be, as much a part of Yankees culture as anyone who has played the game.
"He was New York," Murcer said. "Everybody loved him, and Phil was a part of their family."
And that's why, on Sunday at the Stadium, in the midst of so many Yankees legends both past and present, Rizzuto commanded the loudest applause of all. It was just one big family, cheering on one of its own.
"We miss him, there's no question about that," Murcer said. "But the legacy that he leaves is all good. The way I look at it, it's all about the memories.
"And I've got a lot of memories."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.