In his New York Times column today, Murray Chass reveals that Phil Rizzuto was actually born in 1916, and not 1917, as he had always insisted.
A foul ball came off the bat and smashed Rizzuto’s finger. It hurt. It was bloody. It was a mess. Rizzuto was told to go to a nearby hospital and have the finger treated there. But he couldn’t drive with his finger in that condition, so I offered to take him.
When we arrived at the hospital, the nurse at the outpatient desk asked Rizzuto for the usual information. Date of birth was one of her questions.
“Sept. 25, 1916,” Rizzuto replied without hesitation. With “16” hardly out of his mouth, he turned to me and said sternly, “Don’t you tell anybody.”
And I didn’t, not then, not ever. Until now. But what could have been more Scooterlike than continuing to make himself a year younger decades after he retired? On the other hand, the department of health said Rizzuto’s birth certificate listed his year of birth as 1917, but leave it to Scooter to disagree with the officials.
Chass also reports that Rizzuto may have passed away very late in the night of August 13, instead of early in the morning of August 14. However, a death date of August 14 would mean that Rizzuto and his longtime NL and inter-borough rival, Pee Wee Reese, died on the same day. Reese passed away on August 14, 1999.
When Hoyt Wilhelm passed away in 2002, it was revealed he was a year older than everyone thought.