"He was a Yankee all the way," said Indians great Bob Feller, who at 88 became the oldest living Hall of Famer.
"Phil could hit, he could run, he was good on the basepaths and he was a great shortstop. He knew the fundamentals of the game and he got 100 percent out of his ability. He played it hard and he played it fair," he said.
Born in Brooklyn, Rizzuto tried out with the Dodgers and New York Giants when he was 16, but because of his size was dismissed by Dodgers manager Casey Stengel, who told him to "Go get a shoeshine box." He went on to become one of Stengel's most dependable players.
In an age of broadcasters who spout statistics and repeat the obvious, Rizzuto loved to talk about things like his fear of lightning, the style of an umpire's shoes or even the prospect of outfielder Dave Winfield as a candidate for president.
He liked to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries, read notes from fans, praised the baked delicacies at his favorite restaurant and send messages to old cronies. And if he missed a play, he would scribble "ww" in his scorecard box score. That, he said, meant "wasn't watching."
His popularity was such that at a recent auction a Rizzuto cap embedded with a wad of chewing gum sold for more than $8,000. In the New York area, Rizzuto's antics became a staple for TV ads.
Aug 14, 2007
Phil Rizzuto dies at 89.