Rizzuto, Durocher earned Hall call through determination, toughness

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

They played a combined 3,156 big league games at shortstop and hit a total of 62 home runs.

But the contributions of Leo Durocher and Phil Rizzuto went far beyond mere power. And it was those qualities that brought them to Cooperstown.

The Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee elected Durocher and Rizzuto to the Hall of Fame on Feb. 25, 1994. They joined Baseball Writers’ Association of America electee Steve Carlton in the Class of 1994.

“I almost fell to the floor,” Rizzuto told the Associated Press about the moment that former Yankees teammate Yogi Berra called to tell him he was elected. “I never expected to get in… I never thought I was Hall of Fame material.”

But Rizzuto’s numbers belied his modesty. Over 13 big league seasons – all with the Yankees – Rizzuto was named to five All-Star Games, won the 1950 American League Most Valuable Player Award and finished second in the MVP voting in 1949.

The 5-foot-6, 150-pound Rizzuto hit .273 for his career with a .351 on-base percentage and 877 runs scored. He missed three full seasons in the prime of his career while serving in the U.S. Navy.

The Yankees won nine pennants and seven World Series titles in the years where Rizzuto was their primary shortstop.

“I thought maybe he should have gotten in sooner,” former Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese told the AP. “A lot of young bucks will just look at his stats, but you have to look at his overall value to his team.”

Following his playing career, Rizzuto transitioned into a beloved Yankees broadcaster. His exclamations of “Holy Cow!” became a touchtone on Yankees broadcasts for four decades.

Rizzuto passed away on Aug. 13, 2007.

Durocher, who passed away in 1991, was also a Yankees shortstop and played for the Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers – directly preceding Reese as Brooklyn’s shortstop. But it was as a manager where Durocher earned his fame.

Over 24 seasons with the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs and Astros, Durocher led his teams to three National League pennants and the 1954 World Series title with New York. He won 2,008 games – making him one of only five managers with at least 2,000 wins at the time of his retirement – en route to a .540 winning percentage.

As a player, Durocher hit .247 and was named to three All-Star Games over 17 seasons. He began his managerial career as a player/manager with the Dodgers at the age of 33.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series