Holy Cow! It’s Phil Rizzuto for the Money Store

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jun 22, 2009 in Television |

The Phil Rizzuto I didn't know: An A+ ball player!

Phil Rizzuto: An ace ball player.

My father was a hardcore New York Yankees fan his entire life — and being of a younger generation THE voice of every Yankees broadcast was Philip Francis Rizzuto loving known as “The Scooter”. Phil’s trademark expression during a game was “Holy Cow — I think he got it!” Now not being a sports fanatic I had no idea growing up that Rizzuto was in fact an ace ball player from 1941 until 1956, you see to me Phil always a gentlemanly sports announcer whose personality filled the air. It should be noted that this in itself is a real talent, and looking back at it my ignorance of his first career is a tribute to just how good a presenter Rizzuto was on the air.

To me what Rizzuto unusual was that he would plug sponsors during the show — of course he was doing this because he was on local television here in New York, so you would never ever see anything like that on network TV at the time. So to my young ears these sponsored spots were a bit of a throw back to another era of the 50s during the long lost golden age of television. And of course Phil being on local television the brands he endorsed were, well shall we say “small time business”.

But of course the fact that these brands were small time made Rizzuto’s endorsement all the more endearing. Phil’s manner of speaking was low key and he had the gray hair to match, so you got the feeling that he knew what he was talking about — and of course above all he had a sincerity that you just couldn’t buy (or to use a modern phrase “Phil was very real”). In fact Phil’s credibility was that you knew the second that you watched him that he wasn’t an actor. And the two brands that Phil plugged over he course of his career that stick in my brain cells until this day are Yoo-hoo a beverage that’s sort of like chocolate milk without the milk and the very oddly named Money Store.

Growing up as a child I could easily grasp the concept of Yoo-hoo, but in my earlier years I just couldn’t figure out just what exactly the Money Store was selling. Now to be fair my mind sort of tuned out when adults started talking about topics like taxes and home improvement loans — to a kid this is pretty abstract stuff. Although Phil’s delivery intrigued me to listening about what otherwise would have been a very mundane topic. And looking back at these spots I can see why — because Phil was a total charmer!

Yankees legend Phil Rizzuto

Phil Rizzuto: A face you could trust.

You see what’s going on these spots is that on an emotional level you intrinsically understand that Phil has some sort of honored past in his background. And you get right away that Phil is doing this to pay his bills, but he’s not being a prima donna about it — in fact he’s doing just the opposite: He’s giving us his 100% performance. But this isn’t an opera singer strutting his stuff, but in fact is the quiet confidence of a ball player sizing up a pitcher. Phil gives you that magic of feeling like your on his team, that you’re part of his family. So even though he’s not showing a lot of emotion, you feel a real warmth to him as a persona who’s sitting in the corner of your kitchen where you had the TV turned on to keep track of the game.

Below: A younger Phil than the one I knew on the game show What’s My Line? in the 60s. By the way notice that Phil is wearing a pink shirt and matching pink tie — yet he pulls off while the fashion tastes of the guest stars haven’t held up quite as well. The funny thing about this appearance is that he couldn’t have done it later in his career because everyone who was anyone in New York City would have known his distinctive voice from the radio:


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