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Taking One For the Team

The Greene Line


Phil Rizzuto was not elected to the Hall of Fame until 37 years after his retirement from baseball.

Most people in the game acknowledged that the honor was long overdue the captain of the only team to ever win five consecutive World Series titles.

As I was walking back from yesterday's baseball game between Harvard and Boston College, I over-heard one of the players make a remark about how the team was not getting a lot of coverage in the Crimson.

After all, Harvard has won seven consecutive games--the team hopes to leave this weekend's twin double-headers against Dartmouth with a division title and a chance at its first Ivy League crown since 1985. Yet the team's student fan base remains a consistent twelve.

Why did it take so long for the Scooter to get the recognition he deserved? He lacked the heroic grace of a Joe Dimaggio or the majestic bat of a Mickey Mantle.

He did not have the stats--stats alone would indicate that he deserves the honor no more than a Bobby Bonds or an Al Oliver.

What Rizzuto did offer was a certain scrappiness that made him the envy of every manager in the league. The master of the sacrifice bunt, Rizzuto knew how to "manufacture a run."

When Harvard massacred Brown last weekend, I was digging up the player's stats on the weekend, looking for standout performances.

Usually when a team scores 38 runs in 4 games, some player ends up hitting .600 with a couple of dingers and 12 RBI.

While there were certainly impressive performances last weekend, there were too many little contributions to single out any one player.

Much to the dismay of at least one journalist in search of sensationalism, this team has been characterized all season by spreading the wealth among all its players.

A big part of winning as a team, and the element that won yesterday's game, is the willingness to sacrifice.

When someone on Harvard coach Joe Walsh's squad hits a sacrifice fly, bunts a runner over to third, or even hits a grounder to the right side of the infield with a runner at second and less than two outs, everyone on the bench leaves the dugout and walks halfway up the first baseline to congratulate the hitter on his out.

Phil Rizzuto made a career out of being congratulated on his outs.

Even at 5'9", he knew how to take out the shortstop to prevent a 4-6-3.

He knew how--as Brian Ralph did in Saturday's game against Brown--to get caught in a rundown between first and second when there's an alert baserunner on third and a not-so-alert team in the field.

When he was in the field, he knew how to look both in front of and behind a runner rounding the bag.

In yesterday's game, B.C. scored its runs on homers and doubles into the gap. Harvard scored on sacrifice flies and ground balls to first.

In the final frame, after seeing B.C. come back to tie from three runs-down, Harvard came back and scored a run.

After a double and an intentional walk, the Eagles botched an attempted sacrifice bunt and threw a wild pitch to allow the winning run to cross the plate.

They proved that not all teams are endowed with fundamentals, just as not all hitters are endowed with brute strength.

Yesterday's win wasn't easy, but it was a win.

It wasn't easy for Rizzuto either. His "win" took 37 years.

"It was really a team win," sophomore Brett Vankoski said. "Everybody participated."

Everybody participated and no one stood out.

If the Harvard baseball team is looking for notice, it should stop playing fundamentals and start hitting grandiose home runs.

If it wants to win baseball games, it should continue to congratulate its players on their outs.

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