There are plenty of transplanted New Yawkers living in San Diego, and the death of baseball Hall-of-Famer Phil Rizzuto, a shortstop and later broadcaster for the New York Yankees (Holy, cow!) reminded me of comments Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman made about Rizzuto earlier this summer.
We were talking about playing second base, Coleman’s position with the Yankees alongside Rizzuto.
“I played with one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball history, Phil Rizzuto. He never made a mistake in a game. He never lost track of the count or where to position himself. He couldn’t jump, but it didn’t make any difference. Rizzuto was very accurate and, like I said, never made a mistake.
“Some people say since he didn’t hit well that the only reason he got into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame is because he played for the Yankees in the media capital of New York. They’re wrong. Rizzuto hit .307 in 1941, .324 in 1950 and played on 10 World Championship teams. He had great strength in his hands and he was the best bunter in baseball. He could run and do the little things.
“If he came up today against Derek Jeter, he wouldn’t play because he couldn’t hit against Jeter. That’s true of a lot of players, because they’re so much bigger now. But nobody was better at shortstop than Rizzuto.”
In 1949, Coleman was the American League Rookie of the Year in when the Yankees won the American League pennant, winning 97 games to finish one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox. Coleman teamed with shortstop Phil Rizzuto to turn 102 double plays, with Rizzuto in on 118 double plays.
— TOM SHANAHAN