Holy Cow Playground
This playground honors the Yankee shortstop and later radio and TV broadcaster who made famous the phrase “Holy Cow,” Phil Rizzuto (b.1917).
Born in Brooklyn in 1917, Philip Francis Rizzuto grew up in Queens rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After graduating from Richmond Hill High School, an enthusiastic Rizzuto tried out for the Dodgers, but was turned away by Dodger Manager Casey Stengel who remarked, “Listen kid, you better go and get yourself a shoeshine box. That is the only way you’ll make a living.” A short time later the Yankees asked Rizzuto to attend their tryout week. Showing promise, he was offered a contract and started training for the majors playing out of Bassett, Virginia. While in Bassett a fellow ballplayer mentioned to Rizzuto in jest that the town’s cow’s front legs were shorter than their backs legs which was why they always seemed to congregate on one hill.” Rizzuto believed the player’s story and out of that incident, Rizzuto claims, grew his often-used phrase, “Holy Cow.” Playing 13 seasons as the Yankee shortstop “Scooter (with an interruption of three to serve in the United States Navy during World War II),” Rizzuto was awarded Most Valuable Player in 1950, appeared in nine World Series, and 52 Series games (21 of which he played without a single error). In 1956 Rizzuto became a radio and TV broadcaster for Yankee Baseball. In 1994 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Phil Rizzuto retired in 1996.
Holy Cow Playground opened in 1947 as part of a series of properties acquired as Kissena Corridor Park. A portion of the 45.6 acres that make up the park became available after a right of way for a storm sewer was acquired. Kissena, which is the Chippewa word for “it is cold,” was part of Robert Moses’s plan to develop an “emerald necklace” of parks connecting Flushing Meadows-Corona Park with Cunningham Park. Originally named P.S. 179 Playground, Holy Cow Playground was renamed Peck Playground in 1985 by Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern, reflecting the street which it boarders. Peck Avenue is named in honor of longtime Flushing resident and property owner Isaac Peck (1824-1894). In 1847 Peck settled in Flushing. Owning most of the property, Isaac Peck built a three-story department store along Clinton Street (now part of College Point Boulevard). The second floor of the structure held a terrace upon which patrons waited for the steamer “Flushing.” The ship carried passengers from the communities of Jamaica, Whitestone, and Bayside into Manhattan (reachable at the time only by boat).
In 1998 the playground’s name was changed to Holy Cow in honor of Queens resident Phil Rizzuto after a $400,000 reconstruction of the playground funded by Council Member Sheldon S. Leffler in 1998. In 1999, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sponsored a $52,000 renovation of the park, providing for repairs to paved surfaces and other site work. Holy Cow Playground, adorned with farm animal silhouettes and frog sculptures, features a baseball diamond, play equipment, four basketball courts, two sets of swings, and a tree-lined sitting area.