“God must have needed a shortstop.”

Phil Rizzuto, the legendary announcer and long-time shortstop for the New York Yankees, passed away in his sleep at age 89. He believed he had the best life that a man could wish for, and it seems that his luck carried him right up to the end. His luck apparently carried him to the end. His Hall Hall of Fame induction speech gives some indication of his status in the game, his humility, and his character. Even Yogi Berra can laugh at him!

Though he’s not been an active announcer for years, the fact that he was (by grace of WPIX) in the living room every night made him seem like a member of the family, some eccentric great uncle. He made baseball interesting for a 5 year old. Snatches of history, random observations of the weather or the moon–it all fit. There was a narrative to the game, and he let it through. His accent and perspective were grounded in personal experience, with no apologies.

Sometimes he’d hit on something particularly apt in his ramblings, and many of these have been transcribed into poetry. This one may be one of his best, and is certainly worth remembering on this occasion:

“Prayer for the Captain”

There’s a little prayer I always say
Whenever I think of my family or when I’m flying,
When I’m afraid, and I am afraid of flying.
It’s just a little one. You can say it no matter what,
Whether you’re Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or whatever.
And I’ve probably said it a thousand times
Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

It’s not trying to be maudlin or anything.
His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out
And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson.
But this is just a little one I say time and time again,
It’s just: Angel of God, Thurman’s guardian dear,
To whom his love commits him here, there or everywhere,
Ever this night and day be at his side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

For some reason it makes me feel like I’m talking to Thurman,
Or whoever’s name you put in there,
Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents or anything.
It’s just something to keep you really from going bananas.
Because if you let this,
If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can’t understand it,
That’s what really drives you to despair.

Faith. You gotta have faith.
You know, they say time heals all wounds,
And I don’t quite agree with that a hundred percent.
It gets you to cope with wounds.
You carry them the rest of your life.

August 3, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Pregame show

  1. #1 by yongi on August 14, 2007 - 4:02 pm

    Rizzuto is, of course, utterly alien and unknown to a boy who grew up in Texas hating the Yankees. But what I’ve learned of him from you, Patita, makes it clear that today is a sad day in the land of baseball. Rest in peace, Scooter. You can score me as , but I’m glad someone else is in the booth with me to fill me in.

  2. #2 by yongi on August 14, 2007 - 4:04 pm

    Well crap. That’s supposed to be “score me as WW, but…” up there. I messed up the anchor tags.

  3. #3 by patita on August 14, 2007 - 6:27 pm

    Fitting as a tribute to miss the tags, Yongi!

    I hope that there will be some more clips of his announcing available to hear. I’ve got a fierce craving for cannoli now!

  4. #4 by patita on August 14, 2007 - 10:50 pm

    As Yongi and talked about this tonight, we decided that the current player who most resembles Rizzuto is David Eckstein, a diminutive shortstop who isn’t an offensive powerhouse but who manages to make great plays and keep the opposition on their toes. He’s a fan favorite, though his successful bunts would need to increase by a third each year to match Scooter’s rate.

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