clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

25 Most Surprising Seasons in Yankees History: 1950 Phil Rizzuto

“Scooter” put up a career year in 1950, leading to him winning a major piece of hardware.

New York Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto Posing

If we’re listing the best Yankees of all time, then there are going to be quite a few names that appear before you get to Phil Rizzuto. That’s not to say that Rizzuto wasn’t a good player, but he doesn’t have quite as many credentials as the greatest greats in franchise history.

However, if you’re listing the most beloved Yankees in history, then you have a good argument for Rizzuto. For one, he was the shortstop all through arguably the team’s most dominant era in history, winning seven World Series rings during his 13-year career. After that ended, he went into the broadcast booth and became the voice of the franchise for nearly 40 years.

That being said, he would never had gotten that shot at a marquee broadcasting job like the Yankees’ without some pedigree as a player. That playing time peaked in 1950 when the man nicknamed “Scooter” was good enough to be awarded the American League MVP.

1950 Statistics: 155 games, 735 plate appearances, 200 hits, 92 walks, 7 home runs, 66 RBI, .324/.418/.439, 122 OPS+. 125 wRC+. 6.8 bWAR, 6.9 fWAR

Born in Brooklyn, Rizzuto signed with the Yankees in 1937 and began his career in the minors, as he tried to overcome the assertations he was too small. He just kept producing all through the minors, even winning Minor League Player of the Year in 1940. That brought him into contention for the Yankees’ shortstop job in 1941, which he won over well-liked veteran Frankie Crosetti.

Rizzuto quickly adapted to the majors and even received MVP votes for his rookie 1941 season. While he wasn’t an overpowering hitter, he developed a reputation as good small ball player and a quality defensive shortstop.

That’s generally what he was from 1941-49, missing three years for military service during that time. However, 1949 also saw him finish runner-up in AL MVP voting, behind only some guy named Ted Williams. His reputation helped get him that high despite not having outstanding numbers at the plate. It also set the stage for what would happen the next year, when he did have an excellent all-around season.

After going hitless through his first three games of the 1950 season, Rizzuto went 13-22 with seven walks over his next six. That got him off to the races.

Over the course of the 1950 season, Rizzuto would have 58 multi-hit games, including seven four-hit performances. One of those multi-hit games came on July 15th, in which he hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning to seal a win over Cleveland.

Any way you slice it, 1950 was Rizzuto’s best ever season at the plate. His 122 OPS+ that year clears his next best season — both 103 — by quite a bit. His seven home runs were a career high. His .418 on-base percentage was not only the only time he cracked .400, but one of only two times he was over .370. There are very few offensive stats where 1950 was Rizzuto’s career best year in. Considering the reputation with the skills he had already shown, that year easily carried Rizzuto the AL MVP award. He received 16 of the 23 first-place votes, finishing ahead of second-place Billy Goodman by 104 voting points.

Rizzuto couldn’t quite replicate his regular season heroics in the playoffs as he went just 2-for-14, but the Yankees still swept the Phillies as the won the second of what would become a five-peat.

After 1950, Rizzuto never quite reached that level again, but he would make three more All-Star appearances, giving him five for his career. His beloved status thanks to 1950 and his seven World Series rings would get his #10 retired by the team in 1985.

Between his years of service to the team both on the field and in the broadcast booth, it’s understandable how Rizzuto came to the place he’s at in Yankees’ history. But his 1950 season came out of nowhere and helped cement his place in franchise lore.