NEW YORK (AP) - Holy Cow! Phil Rizzuto is selling much of his memorabilia.
Hey, you huckleberries, the Scooter even brought some of the stuff along to a Thursday news conference to announce the auction, which will take place this summer. Among the items are several World Series rings, a Christmas card from Mickey Mantle and a 56-year-old Yankees cap that is worn, dusty and has a piece of gum still stuck to the top.
Looking elegant but slightly frail, the 88-year-old former shortstop and broadcaster used the phrases that became his trademark during a 40-year broadcasting career with the New York Yankees that ended in 1996. Rizzuto is downsizing in preparation for a move from the family's longtime house in Hillside, N.J., to a smaller home.
"I'm very nervous here with this,'' he said at the microphone.
Rizzuto said he was "doing real good,'' and one of his daughters said he still played golf, although no longer a full 18-hole round.
"I was laid out almost for six months'' Rizzuto said, adding that he was doing "much better now.'' Family members said he is healthy but has good days and bad days.
Rizzuto won the 1950 AL MVP award - that is not for sale - during a playing career with the Yankees that ran from 1941-56. He became, as a family member said, every listener's grandfather during his broadcasting days, when he rambled on with stories, birthday congratulations and his love of cannoli. In many ways, he developed the modern style of a broadcaster with idiosyncrasies.
"Yeah, I think so,'' he said when asked whether his approach had been copied. "I don't care, either.''
Rizzuto, who became the oldest living Hall of Famer when Al Lopez died last October, quit the Yankees still angry that he was not allowed to miss a game by WPIX and attend Mickey Mantle's funeral in 1995, according to his daughter, Patricia Rizzuto. He sounded proud that during his final years as a broadcaster, he was able to leave the ballpark during the seventh inning to beat traffic and get home before games were over.
His use of "huckleberry'' developed during his playing days.
"When I was saying huckleberry, they could not throw me out of a game. What I was saying in my brain, would,'' he said. "Huckleberry would come out, and the umpire couldn't throw me out, so I was never thrown out of a game.''
Patricia Rizzuto said he used "Holy Cow!'' at home all the time.
Perhaps for a B-plus on a test?
"For an A,'' she answered.
Rizzuto has known only the Yankees his entire life, and he has endeared himself to fans. When Pope Paul VI died, he said on the air: "Well that kind of puts the damper on even a Yankee win.'' And it did not seem inappropriate at all coming from him.
He said Thursday that Babe Ruth was his favorite player and recounted stories about Joe DiMaggio.
"Joe wanted to go to the movies, and the only one who was going to go with him was me,'' Rizzuto said. "We'd go way in the back so nobody would see us. But every once in a while, the light might be getting on him. Right away we had to get out of there.''
Asked what his fondest memory was as a player, at first he didn't want to specify one.
"I played every game, I didn't care what happened, whether I was spiked or got hit in the head with the ball,'' he said. "I couldn't wait for the next game.''
Then he spoke of a game against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 17, 1951. Bob Lemon walked Bobby Brown intentionally in the ninth inning with the score 1-1 to pitch to Rizzuto with one out and the bases loaded.
Rizzuto took a strike and DiMaggio raced for home as Lemon went into his windup.
"He was storming down from third base to home plate,'' Rizzuto said. "It was a good thing I bunted the ball and jumped out of the way. Bob Lemon was so mad, he grabbed the ball and threw it over the screen. Ever since then he never liked me too much.''
With the victory, Eddie Lopat reached 20 wins and the first-place Yankees moved one game ahead of Cleveland. They went on to the third of their five straight World Series titles.
In addition to Patricia, daughter Penny Rizzuto Yetto and granddaughter Jennifer Rizzuto Congregane attended the news conference. Their love for the Scooter was clear.
Patricia recalled Phil's answer to a reporter who asked what he'd like to be remembered for.
"My father said, `I want to be remembered as a nice guy,''' she said.