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In the late 1970s, when the Mets really hit the skids and the Yankees got good again, it became necessary, if you were a kid in the Tri- State area, to at least watch the Yankees, perhaps even to grudgingly root for them. ÝForced into this spiritually untenable position, I chose to only root for the scrubs, which made Cliff Johnson my favorite player. ÝI'll never forget the game where he tagged a pitch and Phil Rizzuto started screaming that : "That one's outta here", bringing joy to the heart of every Heatchliff fan, only to have his towering popup caught by the second baseman. Ý

"The Scooter" was easy to laugh at, with his myriad phobias, his propensity for saying unintentionally offensive things about minorities, his tendency to leave the ballpark early when the Yankees were home, etc.  But then there began appearing in The Village Voice a most remarkable feature : verbatim text from Scooter's broadcasts rendered as poetry.  We were suddenly confronted with the frightening prospect that Scooter was not only making sense, but serving up literature, even profundity.  Consider the wisdom, about baseball and about life, of these examples :

    Field of Butterflies

    Absolutely!
    If you don't get a little,
    A few butterflies,
    No matter what you do,
    On the first day of anything,
    You're not human

                April 21, 1991
                New York at Kansas City
                Storm Davis pitching to Steve Sax
                First inning, no outs, bases empty
                (First batter, opening day)
                No score
 

    My Secret

    When I'm driving
    To Yankee Stadium and back,
    I do it so often.

    I don't remember passing lights.
    I don't remember paying tolls
    Coming over the bridge.

    Going back over the bridge,
    I remember...

                August 19, 1992
                Oakland at New York
                Mike Moore pitching to Mel Hall
                Fifth inning, one out, bases empty
                Yankees lead 4-1
 

    Hero or the Goat

    All right, this is it,
    The whole season coming down
    To just one ball game,
    And every mistake will be magnified,
    And every great play will be magnified,
    And it's a tough night for the players,
    I'll tell ya.
    I know last night, being in the same situation many times
    With the great Yankee teams of the past,
    you stay awake,
    And you dream,
    And you think of what might be,
    If you are the hero or the goat.

                October 14, 1976
                AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST PLAYOFF
                Final game
                Kansas City at New York
                Pregame show

Meanwhile some are genuinely moving and even have a worthwhile metaphysical message :

    Prayer for the Captain

    There's a little prayer I always say
    Whenever I think of my family or when I'm flying,
    When I'm afraid, and I am afraid of flying.
    It's just a little one. You can say it no matter what,
    Whether you're Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or
            whatever.
    And I've probably said it a thousand times
    Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

    It's not trying to be maudlin or anything.
    His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out
    And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson.
    But this is just a little one I say time and time again,
    It's just: Angel of God, Thurman's guardian dear,
    To whom his love commits him here there or everywhere,
    Ever this night and day be at his side,
    To light and guard, to rule and guide.

    For some reason it makes me feel like I'm talking to
            Thurman,
    Or whoever's name you put in there,
    Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents
            or anything.
    It's just something to keep you really from going bananas.
    Because if you let this,
    If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can't
            understand it,
    That's what really drives you to despair.

    Faith. You gotta have faith.
    You know, they say time heals all wounds,
    And I don't quite agree with that a hundred percent.
    It gets you to cope with wounds.
    You carry them the rest of your life.

                    August 3, 1979
                    Baltimore at New York
                    Pregame show
 

    The Man in the Moon

    The Yankees have had a traumatic four days.
    Actually five days.
    That terrible crash with Thurman Munson.
    To go through all that agony,
    And then today,
    You and I along with the rest of the team
    Flew to Canton for the services,
    And the family....
 Ý Ý Ý Very upset.

    You know, it might,
    It might sound corny.
    But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight.
    And the crowd,
    Enjoying whatever is going on right now.
    They say it might sound corny,
    But to me it's some kind of a,
        Like an omen.

    Both the moon and Thurman Munson,
    Both ascending up into heaven.
    I just can't get it out of my mind.
    I just saw that full moon,
    And it just reminded me of Thurman.
        And that's it. Ý

                        August 6, 1979
                        Baltimore at New York
                        Ron Guidry pitching to Lee May
                        Fifth inning, bases empty, no outs
                        Orioles lead 1-0

And, of course, most are just damn funny :

    These Heaters

    They're no good.
    Because at my height
    It goes over my head
    And hits the guy in back of me.

    I mean...

    They were not built,
    These heaters were not built
    For normal human beings.
    They were built for people like Seaver.

                    April 27, 1992
                    Texas at New York
                    Scott Sanderson pitching to Geno Petralli
                    Fourth inning, one out, one base runner
                    Yankees lead 3-1
 

    They Own The Wind

    i tell ya,
    did you take notice of the flag?
    i couldn't believe it.
    just as jim rice came to the plate,
    the wind started blowing to left field.
    it not only helped yastrzemski's homer,
    but it hurt jackson's,
    the wind was blowing to right field
    when jackson hit the fly ball,
    when yaz hit the homer
    the wind was blowing to left field,
    kept it from going foul.
    strike one to piniella.
    somebody told me
    the red sox control the elements up here
    i didn't believe 'em until today

                    October 2, 1978
                    AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST PLAYOFF
                    New York at Boston
                    Mike Torrez pitching to Lou Piniella

    To Be Alone

    Hey White
    You know where your loyalties are?

    Right here.
    The old pinstripes.

    No.

    You never wore them
    So you have a right to sing the blues.

                    May 12, 1987
                    New York at Chicago
                    Bill Long pitching to Dan Pasqua
                    Second inning, no outs, bases empty
                    White Sox lead 1-0

As it turns out, this kind of exercise even has a name, it's called "found poetry."  The Rizzuto poems are as good as any I've seen, though another great example is a rendition of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's Whitewater testimony, called Poetry Under Oath (reviewed here).  I also found Websites devoted to the found poetry of Columbo and the Bionic Woman.

At any rate, this book is a hoot and once you read it you'll never again think of Rizzuto as just a good glove man, nor listen to a baseball broadcast without noticing the frequently poetic nature of the announcer's line of patter.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Sports (Baseball)
Book-related and General Links:
    -National Baseball Hall of Fame - Phil Rizzuto
    -Phil Rizzuto - Virtual Baseball Hall of Fame Gallery
    -Phil Rizzuto (BaseballLibrary.com)
    -Phil Rizzuto Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com
    -POEMS : of Phil Rizzuto (Cosmic Baseball Association)
    -POEMS : (Baseball Poetry)
    -POEMS : Scooter's Poetry Corner
    -POEMS : Selected Poems by Phil Rizzuto (Literature : That noble pursuit)
    -Baseball Almanac - Quotations : Phil Rizzuto
    -PHOTO : Phil Rizzuto cover "Friday" Magazine. April 18, 1941 (The-Antique-Shop.com)
    -PHOTO : 50's Spalding Phil Rizzuto Glove ad
    -YANKEE PLAYERS : PHIL RIZZUTO
    -ESSAY : Reese over Rizzutoó and not just because of Robinson : Pee Wee's Excellent Career (August 18 - 24, 1999, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY : Microphone masters: The top MLB broadcasters (Chris Bahr, February 19, 2001, The Sporting News)
    -ARCHIVES : "phil rizzuto" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of O Holy Cow (George Weigel, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of O Holy Cow (Saren Sakurai, SF Bay Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of O Holy Cow (Ron Kaplan, The Bibliography Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research )
    -REVIEW : of The Museum of Clear Ideas: New Poems by Donald Hall and O Holy Cow! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto by Tom Peyer & Hart Seely (eds.) (Leverett T. Smith, The Bibliography Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research)
    -REVIEW : November 4, 1993: Baseball: Joys and Lamentations (Stephen Jay Gould, NY Review of Books)
            My Life As A Fan by Wilfrid Sheed
            Fridays With Red: A Radio Friendship by Bob Edwards
            The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World by Roger Kahn
            The Gospel According to Casey: Casey Stengel's Inimitable, Instructional, Historical Baseball Book by Ira Berkow
            O Holy Cow! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto edited by Tom Peyer, edited by Hart Seely

HART SEELY :
    -POEM : How the Grinch Stole Election Day (Frank Cammuso and Hart Seely, November 21, 2000, Slate)
    -ESSAY : The Xmas-Files (Frank Cammuso and Hart Seely, Dec. 16th, 1996, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY : Bookend : Important: Read This First (FRANK CAMMUSO and HART SEELY, August 27, 2000, NY Times Book
Review)
    -ARTICLE : Signs of trouble came early at Woodstock (Hart Seely, August 1, 1999, Syracuse Post Standard )
    -REVIEW : of 2007-Eleven: and Other American Comedies, by Frank Cammuso and Hart Seely (Michael Sims, Book Page)
    -REVIEW : of 2007-Eleven (Sparlon Orr, Decatur Daily)

TOM PEYER :
    -INTERVIEW : Comic Book Galaxy: Tom Peyer Interview
    -INTERVIEW : Tom Peyer: Time Is On His Side (Park Cooper, Silver Bullet Comics)
    -INTERVIEW : Tom Peyer of HOURMAN (Christopher Irving, Richmond Comix)

FOUND POETRY :
    -ESSAY : FOUND POETRY: SIX EXQUISITE CORPSE TRANSCRIPTIONS (Daniel Nester, La Petite Zine)
    -ESSAY : Enhancing a Poetry Unit with American Memory (Alison Westfall and Laura Mitchell)
    -ESSAY : Redeeming Prose: Colombo' s Found Poetry (Manina Jones)
    -Bionic Woman Poetry website
    -The Institute of Found Poetry (Anthony Dane Rickard, BS, MAT, PhD and Gina Petonito, BA, MA, MA, PhD)

GENERAL :
    -OBIT :  Frank Messer, Former Yankees Announcer, Dies at 76 (RICHARD SANDOMIR, November 16, 2001, NY Times)
    -PROFILE : Super-Fan Profile: Composer Daniel Sonenberg and His Baseball Songs (Rose Solari, Sports Fan Magazine)
    -ESSAY : Joseph Paul Dimaggio, 1914-1999 : Legend in the Gray Flannel Suit (Allen Barra, March 10 - 16, 1999, Village Voice)

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