Hall of Famers at War
|Date and Place of Birth:||September 25, 1917 Brooklyn, NY|
|Date and Place of Death:||August 14, 2007 West Orange, NJ|
|Baseball Experience:||Hall of Fame|
|Military Unit:||US Navy|
|Area Served:||Pacific Theater|
Philip F. "Phil" Rizzuto was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September
25, 1917. He played both baseball and football at Richmond Hill High
School in Queens, New York.
He was signed by the Yankees in 1937, and the diminutive shortstop batted .307 in his rookie major league season with the Yankees in 1941. The following season, Rizzuto was an American League all-star but it was his last season in professional baseball for the duration of the war.
Rizzuto served with the Navy at Norfolk Naval Training Station in 1943, where he played baseball on a regular basis. He was later in charge of 20mm gun crew on a ship in the Pacific, but contracted malaria while in New Guinea. Rizzuto was sent to Australia to recover at a US Navy hospital and went on to organize tournaments and games for wounded sailors stationed there. "You’d be surprised how much sports can do to help the men who have just returned from battle," he told The Sporting News in November 1944. "The physically handicapped boys in the hospital got together and formed athletic teums. They call it the 'Stumpy' club. It’s made up of men who have lost legs and arms in battle. "At first, I was afraid to let them start, but they wanted to play ball so badly that nobody could stop them. We got together on the field and organized a modified form of softball. Naturally, because of their handicaps, new playing rules were drawn up. All of the players on the field wear crutches. Batters don't have to run to any base. Balls hit to certain sections of the playing field are designated as singles, doubles, triples and homers.
"Despite their handicaps, the men put everything they have into the game. At first it’s not a pleasant sight, watching so many guys with crutches, but that's the kind of stuff that keeps their mind at ease. What guts those guys have!"
Rizzuto was back with the Yankees in 1946, but his first after three years of military service, was one of his worse offensively, batting just .252. Rizzuto would soon turn things around and by the time he retired after the 1956 season, Scooter had appeared in nine World Series and been named to five All-Star teams.
Phil Rizzuto later became a broadcaster for the Yankees. His uniform No 10 was retired by the Yankees August 4, 1985 on Phil Rizzuto Day, but he ended up being upstaged by Tom Seaver, who pitched his 300th career victory that afternoon for the Chicago White Sox. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Phil Rizzuto passed away on August 14, 2007. He was 89 years old.
Date Added July 27, 2016
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