Sunday, August 19, 2007


"That huckleberry!" Phil Rizzuto said.

Meatloaf's debut album yielded a hit song for both of them, but, Phil told me, "I had no idea what he was gonna do!"

Meaning, Phil had no idea the play-by-play he'd recorded would become the double-entendre filled highlight in the epic song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." He shook his head in amusement. "That huckleberry!"

Nothing bothered Phil. Not really. Not for very long.

He was too busy counting his blessings: beating the odds on a 5'6" shortstop making the Big Leagues, the MVP award in 1950, being friends with Yogi and Jeter and Dimaggio and all the other great players, being a broadcaster for 40 years, getting into the Hall of Fame...and most of all, his wife Cora and his children.

So what if Meatloaf used his narration that way. As it almost always did for him, whether failing a tryout for the Dodgers or getting cut by the Yankees in 1956, it worked out fine after all. I remember the day he got the Gold Record plaque. In the elevator after the little ceremony, the guileless Scooter wasn't even thinking about himself. "Meatloaf!' he said. "What IS that guy's real name?"

That guy? Marvin Aday. I spent an hour with Mr. Loaf once, and we talked a bit about Phil. Meatloaf was of course a big Rizzuto fan, but a little disappointed in his recording experience with him: "The first few times, he was just reading the lines. It was hard getting him to be Phil Rizzuto!"

Well, yeah...because the greatest thing about Phil Rizzuto was his spontaneity. He worked best being himself...wide-eyed and a little wacky, like this classic from the WPIX archives: "And he hits one in the hole. They're gonna have to hurry. They'll never get him! They got him. How do you like that? Holy cow. I changed my mind before he got there, so that doesn't count as an error..."

Phil was beloved by everyone who ever knew him or heard him or watched him play. He loved everyone, too. Some of his contemporaries would turn down autograph requests, or ask for money, but Phil would patiently sign, and he was proud of being able to put HOF (Hall of Fame) below his signature, and then add his retired number...#10.

Phil died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 90. I wish that #10 could've been added so that he lived to be 100. Two words about Phil Rizzuto. Watta guy.

Phil Rizzuto, MVP, Hall of Famer, and Gold Record winner for:

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
Instant download, you huckleberry!

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