July 22, 2004
Phil Rizzuto Park

Hey, they named a park in New Jersey after Phil Rizzuto, the Yankees' Hall of Fame shortstop and broadcaster.

Holy Cow! Former New York Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto was on hand Wednesday to dedicate a park named in his honor. But those huckleberries eliminated the three baseball fields that used to be there in favor of a soccer field!

There is a soccer field, a gazebo with a replica of the Yankee Stadium facade, and some oversized bats and balls at Phil Rizzuto Park. But there are no traces of the three baseball diamonds that used to be home to a local youth baseball league.

The park, at one of Union County's busiest intersections where Union, Elizabeth and Hillside meet, is named after the Hall of Fame shortstop and 40-year Yankees broadcaster. With the area's growing Latino population, it was practical for the soccer field to supplant baseball diamonds at the site, said Angel Estrada, chairman of the county freeholder board.

"We have the soccer field because it's what our kids need today," he said.

Ah, well, if it doesn't bother The Scooter, it doesn't bother me. Congratulations, Phil Rizzuto!

And of course, the subject of his musical stardom came up:

"I want to tell you about that huckleberry," Rizzuto said, using one of his favorite expressions to describe Meat Loaf, a huge Yankee fan. "He really tricked me into it. He said, 'Phil, I have an idea for a song, I want you to come. We just want you to say these words.'

"All of a sudden I started reading the paper he put in front of me, and I said, 'Wait a minute: Why is every play a close play?' Finally we got through it. A year later, my son calls me up and says, 'Dad, you're a rock star. We got your record here, 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light.' He had to play it about six times before I realized what it was about."

Rizzuto said he enjoyed the recording session, terming it "a good day's pay."

"I got in trouble with some of the nuns because of some of the language," he said. "But then they forgot about it."

There's just one thing The Scooter still wonders about from his fictional account of the front-seat follies.

"We never found out whether he made it or not."

I guess Phil never really listened to the bit after his play-by-play, since the whole "will you love me forever/praying for the end of time" thing is a dead giveaway, but never mind that. What I've always wondered about is why any manager would call for a squeeze play with two outs in the inning. I mean, all you have to do is throw the batter out and the run doesn't score. Am I the only person who's ever been bothered by this?

Thanks to 26 Rings Around New York for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 22, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

Phil Rizzuto described the "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" recording session in an interview with Imus many years ago that is still played as a bumper to this day on his show. As for the squeeze play with two outs, a little suspension of disbelief is OK for the song, especially since Joe Torre wasn't calling the play from the dugout. :-)

As for the park, Phil is a regular visitor with his wife, Cora, since they lives a couple of miles away in Hillside, NJ. Granted, it's not Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair, NJ, but it's a nice tribute.

Posted by: William Hughes on July 23, 2004 4:56 AM

Do you suppose Meatloaf realized his avatar was exhibiting "small ball" tendencies?

Posted by: Danil on July 23, 2004 8:54 AM

Phil Rizzuto was the "greatest" Yankee baseball player ever. They should rename Yankee Stadium - Phil Rizzuto Stadium after him. He was truly the "Pride of the Yankees" ! There will never be another - Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto again. He is truly a "Hall of Famer".
Emilia Mondiello

Posted by: Emilia Mondiello on December 14, 2004 2:12 PM

I have a baseball signed by Phil Rizzuto that I bought at an Rotary Club auction several years ago. However, when I stored the ball, which is in a plastic case, the sun (or something) caused the signature to fade. It is hardly visible now and I was wondering if I could send the ball to him and have him resign his name. But I would need his address, which I don't have. Could someone furnish it to me.

Many thanks,

Dick Sullivan
Naples North Rotary Club
Past President

Posted by: Dick Sullivan on January 17, 2005 2:23 PM