Why is he saying ‘santa vaca’ in a baseball game?

Back in pre-Castro Cuba, my father followed major league baseball (“las mayores”) on the radio and newspapers. Later in 1956, they got to see the World Series on TV. As my parents used to tell me, they also followed La Habana vs Almendares by radio in their hometowns of Ciego de Avila and Sagua la Grande.

One of my father’s favorite players was Phil Rizzuto, who was born in Brooklyn on this day in 1917. Phil got to live a local dream and play shortstop with great Yankee teams. His teammates included Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra, played for the legendary Casey Stengel and got to watch young Mickey Mantle break into baseball. Like many others of his generation, Rizutto served in the military during WW2. After baseball, Phil called over 1,000 games on radio and TV.

Rizutto was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1994. Last, but not least, Rizzuto played with the 1949-53 Yankees or the team that won the Series 5 years in a row. The Oakland A’s won 3 in 1972, 1973 and 1974. The Yankees won 3 in 1998, 1999 and 2000. My guess is that 5 in a row is one of those baseball records that won’t be broken anytime soon.

Once we got to the US from Cuba in 1964, we met the other Phil Rizzuto, the baseball announcer and his signature call “holy cow.” It was different and not one of those phrases easy to translate. “Santa vaca”? Yes, it took me a long time to get my mother to understand that one. I’m not sure that she ever did.

P.S. You can listen to my show.