|Sad day at Yankee Stadium as fans, players mourn loss of Rizzuto|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 14 August 2007 12:53|
That made Tuesday all the more painful for the Yankees captain.
``He always went out of his way to be real nice to me, especially when I first came up,'' said Jeter, who keeps an autographed picture of him and Rizzuto in his office at home. ``Yeah, so it's definitely a sad day.''
Rizzuto had pneumonia and died in his sleep late Monday night, daughter Patricia Rizzuto said Tuesday. He had been in declining health for several years and was living at a nursing home in West Orange, N.J.
Known as ``The Scooter,'' Rizzuto was at 89 the oldest living Hall of Famer. He played for the Yankees throughout the 1940s and '50s, won seven World Series titles, was an AL MVP and played in five All-Star games.
Rizzuto later announced Yankees games for four decades and his No. 10 was retired by baseball's most storied team.
``He played with a lot of heart,'' Jeter said. ``I think he exemplifies what it is to be a Yankee.''
Rizzuto's passing was met with profound sadness by baseball greats from several generations and cast a pall over Yankee Stadium with New York set to take on Baltimore on Tuesday night.
The Yankees placed a bouquet of flowers in front of Rizzuto's plaque in Monument Park and planned a moment of silence and video tribute. The players will wear No. 10 on their left sleeves for the rest of the season.
``I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop,'' Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. ``He epitomized the Yankee spirit - gritty and hard charging - and he wore the pinstripes proudly.''
Rizzuto was remembered for his big sense of humor, colorful broadcast style, diminutive size and considerable skill as a player.
``Everything he did was great,'' said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who roomed with Rizzuto for a while with the Yankees and visited him almost every week in his later years. ``He could steal bases, he could bunt, he was a pretty good hitter.''
Berra said he used to go to movies with Rizzuto when they were players and clowned around with him in the clubhouse or on trains riding to games, playing jokes like hiding each other's shoes. They also played golf and bingo together, and their families were close.
``We had a lot of fun,'' Berra said.
Rizzuto brought that same sense of humor to the broadcast booth, and several of the current Yankees grew up watching him broadcast New York games. Even the players on the field then were aware of his quirky style.
``Every once in a while he would start rambling about something else that had nothing to do with the game,'' said Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry, who played for New York from 1975-88. ``But it was fun. That was his character to where you might try to watch the game and all of the sudden you get caught up in what he's talking about.''
Guidry got the nickname ``Louisiana Lightning'' from Rizzuto, and never let him forget it.
``I told him one day, I said 'Go home tonight, sit down at your desk and sign the damn name about a hundred times and see if you don't get aggravated signing it,''' Guidry said with a grin.
All the flags were lowered at Yankee Stadium on a hot, sunny day in the Bronx. Fans milled around before the game near where the players drive in, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of New York's current stars.
``The best shortstop for the New York Yankees ever,'' said R.J. Molina, 53, of Austin, Texas, whose father got him started as a Yankees fan when he was younger. ``And I think he still was. To have an honor today for him, half-mast, I'm sure he's smiling up from heaven.''