Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, dead at 89

Tribute

Ex-Yankees player and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto passed away today. I listened to The Scooter during my prime baseball-fan days, as an adolescent, and he shaped my feeling for the game. I loved the way he combined a passion for baseball with a clear awareness that it was just a game, not to be taken too seriously.

He was known for his distinctive “Holy Cow!” exclamation, and I also loved how he called people “huckleberry.” During his prime as a Yankees broadcaster, he teamed up with classic straight man Bill White. They made a great duo, the wise-cracking, diminutive old Italian-American bantering with the tall, distinguished African-American.

During broadcasts, Phil would get so involved in anecdotes, stories, or noting fans’ birthdays and anniversaries, that he would forget all about the game. The resulting non-sequitors made for classic TV and radio. And if a summer thunderstorm passed by the Stadium, he would literally run out of the broadcast booth to find shelter!

Years ago, the Village Voice took a few classic Phil monologues and transcribed them into poetic form. It was pure brilliance. Eventually, Tom Peyer & Hart Seely put together a whole book of his “selected verse.” Here are some of my favorite Rizzuto “poems”:

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“Father Outside” times three

Work

I just discovered this: the Academy of American Poets has posted “Father Outside,” one of my poem-comics collaborations with Nick Flynn, on their website.

I really like the way they present the piece in three formats: the original poem in its text form, Nick reading it aloud, and our collaboration.

(This piece — along with two other collaborations I did with Nick — is published in The Vagabonds #2.)

Collaboration with poet Nick Flynn

Work

Cartoon PhysicsI recently adapted a poem called “Cartoon Physics, Part 1,” by my friend Nick Flynn, into a 2-page comic. Our collaboration is due to be published in the fall issue of CrossRoads, the magazine of the Poetry Society of America. Nick Flynn is a poet who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Provincetown, Massachusetts. He has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and from the MacDowell and Millay Colonies. His poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Ploughshares, and The Nation, among other journals and magazines, Some Ether, a book of his poems published by Graywolf Press, won a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, as well as the PEN/American Center’s Joyce Osterweil Award. I want to thank him for choosing me for this collaboration.