Reporter Shares Memories of Phil Rizzuto

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HOST: Phil Rizzuto's most famous home run call was for Roger Maris's record breaking 61st in a season. The Yankees paid tribute to their longtime broadcaster and Hall of Fame shortstop last night by putting his number 10 on their sleeves. There were also two number 10's painted on the field. The Scooter died at the age of 89. The short kid from Brooklyn was always a fan favorite. Bronx resident Iris Nazario...went to last night's game. She didn't remember Rizzuto as a player...but loved him as a broadcaster.

NAZARIO: He was always excited and he was always very faithful to the Yankees and he loved them dearly and he was what you called a real soul mate with the Yankees.

HOST: Jeff Gold also loved to listen to the Scooter's part because Rizzuto wasn't polished like some other announcers.

GOLD: I can remember him broadcasting games and 'holy cow it looks like that one's going out of the ballpark... and the shortstop makes the catch.' I mean he would make silly things like that and those are the things I remember.

HOST: Rizzuto won seven world series with the Yankees over his 13 seasons...from 1941 to 1956. He spent three years in the Navy during World War Two. He was a slick fielder and a great bunter who was named the Most Valuable Player in 1950. Yankees Manager Joe Torre says Rizzuto had a great passion for the game.

TORRE: He was a very special special man and I remember the last time I saw him here at the stadium and he didn't walk out he wanted to jog out and that was very memorable.

HOST: Rizzuto shared a lot during his broadcasts... including his love for canoli. Every game, Artuso Bakery in the Bronx would deliver a box to the broadcast booth for Rizzuto... and they delivered one last box last night. Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay was among those paying tribute to the Scooter...during last night's game...broadcast on YES.

KAY: He was probably the nicest famous person that I ever met and in terms of what he sounded like on the air like your friendly uncle or friendly grandfather. It wasn't an act. He was just as friendly and outgoing and caring as what you'd think he'd be.

HOST: And WNYC's own Dan Blumberg had the chance to experience Rizzuto's humor and generosity first-hand. Dan was part of one of the Scooter's last broadcasts... And, he's with us now in studio... So Dan, how did that come about...and what was it like?:

BLUMBERG Well, I was a sophomore at Wesleyan University and the school arranged for Phil Rizzuto to broadcast a game on our college station because his granddaughter was a student there. It was 1999 and he'd been out of the Yankees broadcast booth for a few years. I was really nervous about how I'd sound next to a broadcasting legend like him -- it was only the second baseball game I'd ever broadcast -- but he felt rusty and seemed more nervous than me.

(Archive tape from April, 1999 broadcast on WESU Radio) RIZZUTO: Now are we on the air now?

BLUMBERG: We are on the air, broadcasting the greater Connecticut area.

RIZZUTO: I'm doing a terrible job and I wanted to do so well up here because my granddaughter, Jennifer Congregane who got me to do this figured I'd be a star and I'm butchering it. Jen! I need some help.

BLUMBERG: Just keep saying Holy Cow and everyone's happy.

RIZZUTO: Well, if he keeps throwing pitches like that!...

(end of archive tape)

BLUMBERG: So it wasn't the greatest broadcast on Earth - believe me, I was there - but he was as friendly as can be and tried to make me feel really comfortable as we sat there broadcasting the Wesleyan-Williams game, sitting outdoors on a really cold and rainy April day.

HOST: What a special and amazing experience for you Dan.

BLUMBERG: Yeah, what a great way for me to start my career.

HOST: And that tape from the Dan Blumberg archive in New York City, right Dan?


HOST: Phil Rizzuto passed away at the age of 89.