Phil Rizzuto Figured It Out and Listened

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Phil Rizzuto Figured It Out and Listened
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Enos “Country” Slaughter replaced Phil Rizzuto on the New York Yankees’ roster on Aug. 25, 1956. 

The move was announced on Old Timers’ Day, and effectively ended the career of the second greatest shortstop in Yankees’ history.

The Yankees needed help, which they hoped Slaughter could provide, but they were insensitive with respect to the timing of Rizzuto’s release.

Phil often talked about the unusual circumstances.

General manager “Lonesome” George Weiss invited Phil to meet with the front office to discuss the World Series roster, assuming the Yankees would win the pennant.

Weiss gave Phil a list of players and asked him which ones might be released to make room for Slaughter.  Whenever Phil mentioned a player, Weiss explained why the Yankees needed that player. 

Rizzuto was no dummy.  He quickly realized that he was being released.

The usually calm Rizzuto was livid, but he was also sensible. 

Phil called up George Stirnweiss, who had played for the Yankees during the 1940s.  Stirnweiss told Phil not the blast the Yankees because it might cost him a job with the organization in the not-too-distant future.

Rizzuto heeded the advice, later saying that listening to Stirnweiss was one of the best moves he ever made. 

The Yankees’ broadcast crew consisted of Mel Allen, Red Barber, and Jim Woods.  Following the 1956 season, Rizzuto, who was a golfing buddy of one of the Yankees’ television sponsors, replaced Woods in the broadcast booth.

Manager Casey Stengel wanted Enos Slaughter.

"I wanted Slaughter back. Sure, I was thinking World Series, but I was also thinking about winning the pennant at the time. We were in bad shape then. He's been great for me. All I know is that he's an old pro."

It was the second time that the Yankees obtained Slaughter. In 1954, they sent Bill Virdon and two other minor leaguers to the Cardinals in exchange for Enos, who had spent his entire career with the Redbirds.

When informed that he was leaving the Cardinals, Slaughter wept.

Appearing in only 69 games for the Yankees in 1954, Slaughter hit .248 with one home run. On May 1955, he was sent to Kansas City, where he batted .322.  The fans selected him the most popular Kansas City player.

The Yankees won the pennant, Mickey won the Triple Crown, Whitey Ford won 19 games, and defending World Champion Brooklyn repeated as National League Champions.

The 1956 World Series was another death match between Brooklyn and the Bronx.  If not for Slaughter, Brooklyn would have won.

In the first game, Sal Maglie beat Whitey Ford.  The Yankees jumped out to a six-run lead against Don Newcombe, but Don Larsen couldn’t hold any of it as Brooklyn won, 13-8,

Whitey Ford, who had lasted only three innings in the first game, started on two days rest against Roger Craig.

Slaughter, who had three hits in the first game and two hits in the second, was again playing left field.

With Brooklyn leading 2-1 in the sixth inning, Hank Bauer was on third and Yogi Berra was on first with two outs.

Slaughter ran the count to 3-1 and then hit the next pitch into the right field seats for a three-run home run.  Ford hung on as the Yankees won 5-3.

After the game, Yankees' manager Casey Stengel said about Slaughter, "He has been my best hitter. Like Ted Williams, if he likes a pitch, he swings, if he doesn't, he looks."

No team has ever lost the first three games of a World Series and come back to win.  If Slaughter had not hit his home run, the Yankees likely would have lost both the third game and the World Series. 

For whom do you think Phil Rizzuto was rooting that year?

References:

“Yanks Drop Rizzuto and Get Slaughter.” New York Times . 26 August 1956, p.S1.


Drebinger, John. “Ford Goes Route; Tops Brooks for Yanks as Slaughter Stars with 3-Run Homer.” New York Times . 7 October 1956, p.201.


Effratt, Louis. “Ford Says He Pitched Well Enough to Win in Stadium, but not at Ebbets Field.” New York Times . 7 October 1956, p.202.

Retrosheet

Phil Rizzuto at Wikipedia

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