Dexter Park. A semi-pro team named the Bushwicks played there and they played other semi pro teams, teams from the Negro Leagues, as they were then called, and a mixture of minor and major league players. I saw the great Josh Gibson hit the longest home run I have ever seen and asked my Dad why isn't this guy playing for the Yankees. He said blacks are not allowed in the majors. What a shame.
Rizzuto was a prospect with the Yankees minor league affiliate in Kansas City. Years later when Kansas City joined the majors, skeptics still claimed that Kansas City was a Yankee farm team. Rizzuto and a slick fielding second baseman by the name of Jerry Priddy raised eyebrows and expectations in the Yankee camp. So there they were on the field at Dexter Park with the Minor League Allstars and fans kept rooting for a Bushwick to get on base so that the Rizzuto-Priddy combo could pull off a double play. I believe they pulled off three much to the delight of the capacity crowd. All Sunday games were doubleheaders, the old fashioned way. You payed one ticket price and you saw two games.
Dexter Park was a beautiful ballpark with decent dimensions. By today's standards they were huge. Right field down the line was 327, left field was 335 and center field was 425 to the spot that had the name of the park in beautiful white stones. Josh Gibson's shot was on a line directly over the name. I forget the name of the subway line but the stop was Elderts Lane and it was elevated when you reached the park. For a kid it was a beautiful site and I had to wait a few years later to see Yankee Stadium. Between games you were allowed to leave the park and go across the street where there was an assortment of bars serving all kinds of refreshments.
1941 was Rizzuto' first year and he hit .307 and dazzled the fans with his quickness and sure handed fielding. No shortshop could go out to the outfield the way the Scooter did for pop ups. There was no Jerry Priddy for Rizzuto at second base. However, he had Joe Gordon, a power hitting slick fielder who combined with Rizzuto became the number one DP combination in the majors. Rizzuto had such team mates as Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, Red Rolfe, Red Ruffing and the great Joe DiMaggio who established the record of hitting in 56 straight games, a record that still stands. They beat the Dodgers in six games in the World Series which also was the start of the Rizzuto-Reese who is better arguments.
It took a while for Rizzuto to get into the Hall Of Fame. He never got enough votes to qualify for the Hall and then was turned over to the Old Timers Committee, which is all politics. When Pee Wee Reese got in and Rizzuto was left out there was despair with Yankee fans and Phil. In case you don't know it the Old Times Committee is like a Senate Committee, all politics. When Reese got in the committee was headed by NL Hall Of Famer Stan Musial and Roy Campenalla. They made sure they took care of many iffy NLers. Reese wasn't iffy, he deserved the Hall but so did Rizzuto. Years later when Ted Williams took over the committee Rizzuto with an assist from Joe DiMaggio, who was friendly with Williams, was elected and now he sits in the Hall.
As we all know Rizzuto became even more famous as a Yankee announcer working with such legends as Mel Allen, Red Barber, Bill White, Fran Healy, Jerry Coleman and just about every other announcer who was in New York. We will miss the Scooter but think about the life this beautiful man had. Almost 90 years on earth and most of it connected with baseball. Almost ninety years and I'll sign up for that right now. Don't get me wrong, no matter how old they are you never want to see them leave. My mother died at 96 but none of us wanted to see her go.
The Scooter had a great celebrated life and will leave many cherished memories which we all will relive as time goes on. They say that time heals all wounds but there are no wounds here only joy and happy reminders, which we all remember mostly with smiles. Deepest sympathy and condolences to Cora and the Rizzuto family. We will miss The Scooter but we should all celebrate his life, his wonderful life. God bless the Scooter. Holy Cow!