The World According to Keitho

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Paul O’Neill’s Phil Rizzuto Moment

Posted by keithosaunders on August 25, 2010

Those of my generation – I turned 50 today – are too young to remember the great New York Yankee, Phil Rizzuto, as a player. We are, however, fortunate to have experienced him as an announcer.

Rizzuto was knowledgable, inciteful, and charming and he had an eccentric side to him that was both funny and unpredictably zany. His long time booth-mate, Bill White, was adroit at drawing out Rizutto’s quirky side and he expertly play the instigator.

One day White was peering at Rizzuto’s scorecard when he asked, “What is DSP?”. Rizzoto, without missing a beat replied, “Didn’t see play.”

My best friend, Jeff, supplied this anecdote:

As the season went on, Bill White made Rizzuto promise to never use DSP again. Rizzuto promised, and that seemed to end it. Several games down the road, he was on with Bobby Murcer who brought up the promise, and Rizzuto said he didn’t break his promise.

So Bobby Murcer says, “Let me ask you something. If a batter walks, do you put down a “W”?”

Rizzuto: “Yes”

Murcer: “If a batter is walked intentionally, do you put down “IW”?”

Rizzuto: “Yes”

Murcer: “Then what is “WW”?

Rizzuto: “Wasn’t Watching”

Murcer: “So WW is just camouflage for DSP—a loophole”.

Rizzuto: “Don’t tell White.”

But from that point forward, WW became part of the Yankee vernacular, and White didn’t try to hold Rizzuto to any more promises. What a character Rizzuto was.

Paul O’Neill is following Rizutto’s route from hard-nosed ballplayer, to engaging, yet befuddled announcer. Thanks again to Jeff we have the forthcoming anecdote. Here is Paul O’Neill’s story as he is relating it to Michael Kay:

Paul O: “So I get home late last night after the game, pour myself a glass of wine and get ready to watch a movie I taped on HBO only to discover that I somehow pressed the SAP button, and the whole thing was in Spanish.”

Michael K: “Do you speak any Spanish?”

Paul O: “All I know in Spanish is how to say, ‘Please give me a beer’ ”

Michael K: “Why didn’t you go to HBO on demand?”

Paul O: (after a brief pause) “Feel free to stick your finger deep into the open wound” (background laughter from John Flaherty)

Well, it felt like a Rizzuto moment to me. And Phil always used to say that long stories lead to Yankee rallies, and the next inning, they came from behind with a 9 run inning. So to the memory of Phil Rizzuto, this cerveza is for all good huckleberries.

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4 Responses to “Paul O’Neill’s Phil Rizzuto Moment”

  1. zapple100 said

    Happy Birthday Keith!
    I remember one game Rizzito and White were doing. The Yankees were getting killed. Then Rizzito start talking about Italian food and the Yanks score some runs. Rizzito says, “White, maybe if I talk about Italian food, the Yankees will score some runs.” He then talked about food for the rest of the inning. Didn’t say one word about the game. And Bill White isn’t innocent in this at all. He used to egg Rizzuto on every chance he got.
    Those were the days when you have good announcers and they made watching the game fun.

  2. Happy Birthday, Keith! Hope you had a good one.
    Have to admit, I was never a fan of Rizzuto as an announcer. Guess ’cause I hated the Yankees, and he was the ultimate “Homey.” I remember hearing him one time say about Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee: “I don’t know how he gets anyone out, with that junk he throws.” But I can see why Yankees fans would love him.
    BTW, I’m only about three years behind you, my man! Bill

    • Hi William,

      Noone hates the Yankees more than I, but I have to admit that after getting over the initial outrage of Rizzuto being a homer (I had grown up with Vin Scully) he slowly began to grow on me. He was so good natured and likable, and funny. As my friend and great Yankee fan Jeff told me, Rizzuto probably played the role of being addled, but in reality he was very sharp. There is even a bit sly logic to his Bill Lee comment.

      That breed is gone now and I think we’re the worse off because of it. The new breed such as Joe Buck and his ilk are technically better announcers but are too bland for my taste. I think the Mets team of Gary Cohen,Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are great.

  3. jeff m said

    I remember the Bill Lee comment, and I don’t think it was meant to be mean-spirited at all. Rizzuto used to say about all junk ball and knuckleball pitchers (including Yankee ones) that they couldn’t break a pane of glass. He was genuinely surprised that those pitchers could get people out. I had the pleasure of meeting him twice, and he was just as charming off the air. I don’t think he could be mean if he wanted to. And anyone who spends 50 years with one team is entitled to be a homer to some extent as opposed to someone like Ken Harrelson who played for the Indians, was a Yankee announcer, and then bleeds White Sox colors ad nauseum. Even Harry Caray who was a lot of fun to listen to, but how can you spend half your career associated with the White Sox & Cardinals and then turn into Mr. Cub overnight. And for all the Yankee haters, Jerry Remy is every bit as charming and sometimes quirky as Rizzuto, and he makes Red Sox telecasts just as enjoyable.

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