I lived in NYC from 1981-93 and watched a lot of Yankees games on TV during that time. As I recall, a large percentage of those games featured Bill White and Phil Rizzuto in the broadcast booth. Rizzuto (aka “Scooter”) was a Yankee legend and a Hall of Famer, having played played shortstop on some amazing teams alongside the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. He was also like your lovable, crazy uncle. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth. Some of his verbiage was so bizarre that it would be re-framed and published as poetry. For instance:
Some kid wrote me a letter.
You and Murcer,
Every time Murcer says
I make oh for four and two errors.
Some guy wrote,
Which I haven’t gotten yet,
He wrote it to Yankee Stadium,
But by the way,
You’re doing the play-by-play, Seaver.
So go ahead.
I was gonna tell you something,
But I forgot what it was.
Or this candid appraisal of Rickey Henderson’s physique:
He has powerful legs and cute buns,
That was a great shot,
Going to second base there.
There’s nothing wrong with that, White.
That’s a popular expression.
High, and it’s one and one.
His legs were churning.
“White” was Bill White, who had been an excellent ballplayer in his own right. His demeanor was the antithesis of Scooter’s: stoic, analytical, serious. But he seemed genuinely amused by Rizzuto’s flakiness, and was very tolerant and affectionate towards him.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. One of the more enjoyable aspects of my time on the East Coast (Boston 1977-81; NYC 1981-93) was the chance to spend time with my Connecticut cousins Adam and Ben, who were (and still are) about a decade younger than me. I would attempt to entertain them with G-rated smart aleck remarks. One such witticism was something that I had overheard about a tall person (being 6’4″, I can relate) who got sick and tired of being asked if he had been a basketball player. “No”, became his new stock response, “Did you used to be a jockey?”
One happy day, my Uncle Morley (Adam and Ben’s dad) called with an invitation to join him and the boys for a game at historic Yankee Stadium. As the tickets were acquired through Morley’s business, they came with the perk of having a Photo Opportunity with none other than Yankee legend (and announcer) Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto.
At the Photo Opportunity (pictured above), we found Scooter to be very welcoming and friendly. As he shook my hand, he said, “Holy Cow! Look at the size of you! Did you play a lot of basketball?” I immediately shot a glance at Ben (the younger brother), who had the EXACT same twinkle in his eye that you see in the photo. I knew what the twinkle meant at that moment: “Say it! SAY IT! Ask him if he used to be a jockey!”
I couldn’t bring myself to go there. I just smiled and chuckled politely, having made the rare choice of taking the High Road. Let me tell you, the weather is kind of weird up there.