Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Scooter Day: Beat the Sox!

Today is the birthday of a great man.

No, I don't mean Michael Douglas. The shriveled ham actor turns 65 today, and thus officially becomes what I've been saying he is for years now: A senior citizen.

It's also the birthday of his wife, the Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. She turns 40. Yeah, well, 40 is the new whatever she wants it to be. I'm taking a day off from work, because it's a religious holiday. CZJ is a goddess of love.

There's a 3-month difference in our ages. Between her and "It," as someone I correspond with online calls Kirk Douglas' son, there's 25 years. And yet, when they met, Kirk, who's still alive at 93, said to Michael, "If you don't marry her, I will!"

In all fairness, I hated Michael Douglas long before he took my precioussss away from me. And I don't hate him nearly as much as I used to.

The strange thing is, I hated Richard Gere because he took away Cindy Crawford, but I don't hate her second husband, whatever his name is. (Rande Gerber.) And, as one of the generation of boys who discovered women by seeing Christie Brinkley on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (or "SI-squared"), I already didn't like Billy Joel when he married her. Then I found out how great his music is and forgave him. Then I found out Christie cheated on him, and I hated her. But when her most recent husband cheated on her, it became easy to let bygones be bygones.

Uh, where was I?


Oh, yes, today is the birthday of a great man. The year is in dispute: It's been cited as 1916, 1917 and 1918, but the date September 25 is not in dispute. Sadly, the man has moved on to the great ballpark in the sky, but I still want to wish a Happy Birthday to Philip Francis Rizzuto.

Da Scootah. New York Yankees shortstop 1941-1956, with 1943-45 off for serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. New York Yankees broadcaster 1957-1996.

Think about that: He was a Yankee broadcaster during the drought of 1965-1975 and the one of 1982-1995, the 2 longest droughts in team history, and yet he still was a part of 19 World Championships. (It would have been 20 if he wasn't off saving the world.)

Throw in the fact that the Yankees signed him to his 1st pro contract in 1937, and it means that the Yankees never won a World Series without Phil Rizzuto on the payroll between 1936 and 1998! For all I know, maybe they still haven't won one without the Scooter on the payroll since 1936: He may have still been listed as a "special advisor" or an "ambassador" or something prior to his death in 2007.

I was at Yankee Stadium on Phil Rizzuto Day, August 4, 1985. It was a Sunday. The previous Tuesday, I ordered the tickets. The next day, Wednesday, the opponents, the Chicago White Sox, announced that Tom Seaver, with 299 career victories, would be the starting pitcher. A lot of Met fans came to watch Seaver win his 300th. And he did. But I came to honor the Scooter. I'll tell the story in full some other time, because it makes Met fans look like animals.

The Scooter got his Number 10 retired -- and as many numbers as the Yankees have retired, it was "only" the 9th number retired by the Pinstripes. And he got his Monument Park Plaque:
All-Time Yankee Shortstop? At the time, it was true. He lasted long enough in the booth to see Derek Jeter as a rookie, and, ooh, I tell ya, it was unbelievable how much Phil loved Derek.

Phil said, "Being honored by the Yankees means more to me than the Hall of Fame ever could."

Thankfully, the Hall's Veterans' Committee eventually showed Phil how wrong he was about that. And I don't care what Bill James says -- he works for the Red Sox now, anyway -- Anybody who says that Phil Rizzuto doesn't belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame is somebody who would tell kids that Santa Claus deals drugs. Only a true lowlife would say that. I tell ya, it gives me agita just thinking about it.


So what are the Yankees getting for Rizzuto for his birthday? I have a great idea for a present: Beat those huckleberries from Boston! Crunch 'em like cannoli!

(Yes, "cannoli." That's the correct plural form. The correct singular is "cannolo" -- or "cannolu," if you want to say it not in Italian, but in its native Sicilian. To show the proper... respect.)

So long. I gotta get over that bridge. Holy cow.

No comments: