Notes: Randolph's Scooter memories
Manager shares his thoughts about Rizzuto, who died at 89
PITTSBURGH -- Memories of Phil Rizzuto are in many corners throughout the game. But only one of those corners was in the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park on Tuesday night, when the Mets gathered before the first game of their three-game series against the Pirates. Few people, other than manager Willie Randolph, could relate to the Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop.
Tom Glavine and Shawn Green knew of him. But even Glavine, who has more sacrifice bunts than any pitcher in the game's history, knew nothing of Rizzuto's prowess as a bunter. Green knew of him, but he never heard of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," Rizzuto's successful foray into the recording business. David Wright knew Rizzuto was mentioned in movies like "Billy Madison."
Randolph, of course, was quite familiar with Scooter, who died on Tuesday at 89. Rizzuto was in the Yankees' broadcast booth throughout Randolph's 13-year playing career with the Bronx Bombers. The two shared a mutual admiration. Rizzuto praised Randolph's ability to bunt and play small ball. And Randolph said the same of the late Yankees shortstop.
"A lot of people now think of Scooter as a Hall of Famer, and they know broadcasting style," Randolph said. "And he belongs right up there, a bonafide Yankees great with Mickey [Mantle], Yogi [Berra] and Whitey [Ford]. What I remember most about him is that he understood how the game should be played -- getting on base and moving runners over.
"I'd like to think I played like he did. We didn't get the credit sometimes, but you knew you were playing it right. Billy [Martin] played with Scooter. He'd talk about him. And Scooter and I used to talk. We worked together in Spring Training."
A Rose is a Rose is a... Howie Rose, half of the Mets' radio play-by-play team, has a rather special memory of Rizzuto when he was a radio reporter in New York. Rose was in the Yankee Stadium pressbox, at some point in 1978, with a transistor radio near his ear, and when Rizzuto happened by, he assumed Rose was listening to a game that had some bearing on the American League East race.
So Scooter was surprised when Rose's response to the question, "What's the score?" was "3-2, Mets."
"He gave me a 'Holy Cow!'" Rose said, "and a 'Are you kiddin'?' and 'Unbelievable,' you know. 'Can you believe this huckleberry?' ... He called me a huckleberry. I was 24 years old, and I'd made it. Phil Rizzuto called me a huckleberry."
Later in his career as an announcer, Rizzuto was known not to pay close attention to the game he was working; hence the "WW" that often appeared in his scorecard. It stood for "wasn't watching." But he was aware of developments in-game, and in 1983, after the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez, Rizzuto watched a few innings of a Mets game during a Yankees' rain delay.
"That Hernandez," Rizzuto said. "He's right there in the batter's face. He'd be tough to bunt against. But there always a place to bunt the ball. That's the beauty of it."
Changes: Randolph rearranged the furniture for the first game of the Pirates series, putting Carlos Beltran in the cleanup spot for the first time since 2005 and batting Wright in front of him. Randolph and Beltran downplayed the significance of the change, but players raised their eyebrows -- not in agreement or disagreement, necessarily.
"It's just a new look with two of the big guys changing spots," one of them said. "But David's been hot. I don't think anyone's surprised by it."
Randolph's explanation wasn't really an explanation. But he said, "It's good to have all your speed guys together," now evidently including Wright -- and not Beltran -- with Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo.
Randolph acknowledged wanting Wright to bat in the first inning, saying he has been thinking of making the move for some time.
The manager also had Lastings Milledge start in right field, against right-handed Ian Snell, as opposed to the left-handed-hitting Green. Randolph said he's hoping Milledge or Green asserts himself and takes the right-field job for his own.
Now catching: It was Mike DiFelice behind the plate on Tuesday night. Ramon Castro was still bothered by arthritis, so DiFelice, promoted on Sunday after Paul Lo Duca was assigned to the disabled list, made his first start of the season. Castro, who had cortisone injected in his back on Monday, said that he doesn't anticipate his disability to be long term. But he acknowledged he has no real sense of the problem.
"I hope it's not long," he said.
The Mets made no personnel adjustment to compensate for Castro's problem. Randolph said he probably would turn to Castro if DiFelice became unable to play and use Carlos Delgado or Damion Easley in an acute emergency.
David Newhan had been considered the first emergency catcher. But he was assigned to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday to accommodate Marlon Anderson on the roster. Anderson had been on the bereavement list.
This date in Mets history -- Aug. 16: On those occasions when Phil Niekro started for the Yankees and he was relieved by Dave Righetti, opposing hitters said that they couldn't imagine facing two more dissimilar pitchers -- a right-handed knuckleballer and a hard-throwing left-handed closer. It wasn't quite that way for the Mets in 1970. On this date, they lost, 3-2, to the Braves in Atlanta. The winning pitcher was Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, who pitched the ninth inning in relief of Niekro. Mets lost when, with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Tom Seaver threw a wild pitch -- it was strike three to Bob Tillman -- and two runs scored.
Three years later on this date, Seaver allowed three baserunners in a 7-0 shutout against San Diego, the Mets' first victory after four straight losses and a win that, in retrospect, was the first step toward winning the National League East championship. The win put the Mets' record at 53-65. They won 29 of their remaining 43 games, pitching seven more shutouts and allowing one of two runs in 17 other games. Three of the 17 games, though, were 1-0 losses.
And on Aug. 15, 1985, the Mets battered Jerry Koosman and won, 10-7, in Philadelphia. They scored three times in the ninth inning on a double by Lenny Dykstra and a two-run error by Von Hayes. They had scored six runs in 1 2/3 innings against Koosman, who had started. Tom Paciorek, Ray Knight and Gary Carter hit home runs in the first inning. Dwight Gooden, who had won seven straight starts and 12 straight decisions, allowed five runs in the first four innings. His ERA increased from 1.64 to 1.82. Three of the runs came on a home run by Mike Schmidt into straightaway center field at Veterans Stadium. Years later, Gooden said that was the hardest-hit ball he ever allowed.
Coming up: John Maine (12-7, 3.53 ERA) tries to get back on track against the Pirates on Wednesday night at 7:05 ET, starting opposite Matt Morris (7-7, 4.53 ERA). Maine has lost his past two starts, but he pitched effectively against the Pirates on July 24 -- seven innings, two runs.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.