By Steve Svetovich
Back in February 2006, Dunmore’s Jim Brozzetti needed someone to hold his hand when he attended the memorial service for his son, Jimmy, who tragically died at age 20 in a auto accident on his way back to Lycoming College.
That someone was late New York Yankees legend and Hall of Fame shortstop Phil “The Scooter” Rizzuto.
“Jim, I’m here for you,” Rizzuto kept whispering to him.
The Scooter was nearing 90, and he was the one holding Brozzetti’s hand the entire hour, the worst hour of his good friend’s life.
That heart wrenching February day was also Brozzetti’s 60th birthday
That was likely the last funeral service Rizzuto attended before he died the following year in his sleep.
Brozzetti died last month after a long battle with cancer. He was never the same after his son’s tragic death.
Brozzetti was a close friend to Rizzuto and many other famous Yankees such as Joe Pepitone, Roy White, Don Mattingly, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, the late Gene Michael, and even late owner George Steinbrenner. He knew them all.
This scribe can attest to that. Rizzuto, in a personal letter to this scribe about 25 years ago, mentioned Brozzetti. Rizzuto wrote that he often visited Brozzetti at his Dunmore home. “When I come to visit my good friend Jimmy Brozzetti in Dunmore, I will look you up,” The Scooter wrote.
Brozzetti, upon Steinbrenner’s passing in 2010, remembered the former Yankees owner as a generous man who gave him unfettered access to the Yankees – some who became his closest friends.
Steinbrenner even gave Brozzetti a 1996 championship ring for being such a devoted Yankees fan.
Brozzetti, who owned a vending business, was known as Dunmore’s biggest New York Yankees fan. He attended over 900 consecutive Yankees games at Yankee Stadium across the 1980’s and 1990’s. He grew close to Rizzuto and other famous Yankees during that time period.
Brozzetti was a frequent visitor to the West Orange nursing home “The Scooter” lived in during the final months of his life.
“The Scooter” was a big fan of Derek Jeter and often spoke to Brozzetti of his admiration of the Yankees shortstop.
Rizzuto would imitate the famous “Jeter flip play,” even acting it out with Brozzetti in the nursing home.
When Rizzuto died, Brozzetti was at that funeral service. He was there for “The Scooter’s” wife, Cora. He was returning the favor and legacy of friendship.
Former Dunmore Councilman Paul Nardozzi said Brozzetti was like a big brother to him. “Jimmy was obviously Dunmore’s biggest Yankees man,” Nardozzi said. “He introduced me and my son Chris to George Steinbrenner and Gene Michael. And I met other Yankees like Roy White and Bucky Dent through Jimmy. They all knew Jimmy at Yankee Stadium. He was at every game.
“He was a mentor, a big brother to me. He was a very close friend.
“Jimmy was also very charitable. He was involved in a lot of fund-raising efforts for kids, like the KRW Foundation, which raises money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. He used to get hundreds of baseballs signed by Yankees players and give the autographed balls to kids.”
Brozzetti had a great affinity for Dunmore football, Nardozzi said, because his late son Jimmy played for the Bucks.
“When he was sick and battling cancer,” Nardozzi said, “Jimmy would ask me to text him the score of the Dunmore Bucks football games after every quarter. He loved Dunmore Bucks football because his son played for them.”
Brozzetti, who died at 76, was a 1964 graduate of Dunmore High School. The son of the late Lucy and Angelo Brozzetti, Dunmore, he ran track and played baseball at Dunmore where he was nicknamed “Speedy Tomatoes.”
Following graduation, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and served in Korea. He attended Lackawanna Junior College and Johnson College, earning an associate degree.
Known in Dunmore as “Mr. Yankee,” he was a proud business owner of Jim’s Amusements and Vending for more than 40 years.
He played softball for many years in an adult league at Saint Anthony’s Playground, Dunmore.
Brozzetti was employed by Lackawanna County as the community outreach coordinator, working for the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at PNC Field in Moosic. The Lackawanna County Commissioners presented him with a proclamation for his commitment to helping children and youth organizations and as the driving force for the Legends Game at PNC Field, the KRW Foundation’s “Party with the Pros,” and the development of Strawberry Field in Peckville.
Brozzetti is survived by a daughter, Dina Manci, and granddaughter Lucy Manci, both of Glenburn.