O Holy Cow! The "found poetry" of Phil Rizzuto's broadcasts

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O Holy Cow! : The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto (1993) (Phil Rizzuto 1917-) (edited by Tom Peyer and Hart Seely)

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. Forced into this spiritually untenable position, I chose to only root for the scrubs, which made Cliff Johnson my favorite player. I'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.

"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...

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.

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.

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....

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.

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.

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

To Be Alone

Hey White You know where your loyalties are?

Right here.

The old pinstripes.


You never wore them

So you have a right to sing the blues.

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.

-- (lars@indy.net), January 22, 2002


I have read Monica Lewinski's found poetry and it is very very good. Some of the most hauntingly existential expression that one could ever encounter.

-- Peter Errington (petere7@starpower.net), January 22, 2002.

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