"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Hey Ma and Pa

Here’s an appreciation of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman by Ralph Gardner Jr. in the Wall Street Journal:

I’m a Mets fan, yet my favorite announcers are the Yankees’ John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

I can already hear the groans from baseball aficionados, so let’s clear the air before we get started. Yes, Mr. Sterling’s silken delivery owes more to the golden age of radio, or perhaps Ted Baxter of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” than it does gladiatorial ESPN. He’s been known to call home runs—”It is high, it is far, it is gone!”—only to have to take it back when the balls turn out to be playable. And Ms. Waldman might have momentarily lost perspective when she swooned in 2007 upon spotting Roger Clemens in George Steinbrenner’s box at Yankee Stadium, signifying his lordship’s return to the Yankee roster for one year at $28 million, and said: “Oh my goodness gracious. Of all the dramatic things I’ve ever seen…”

My reaction to the armchair critics is: Lighten up. Get a life. Then again, I may not be the best judge. I started a co-ed softball team in college, with myself the only male player because I wanted nurturing and encouragement rather than vilification when I dropped a pop fly, as I occasionally did.

But for sheer radio listening pleasure for the casual fan, I don’t think anybody beats the Sterling-Waldman duo. Their style is conversational rather than testosterone-crazed; it’s almost overheard, as if you were eavesdropping on their tête-à-tête from the next table at Sardi’s. And they know their stuff—Mr. Sterling because he’s been the Yankees announcer for every single game since 1989, Ms. Waldman because she works her tail off—as I discovered when I visited them at the stadium for last Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

[Photo Credit: The Yankee Analysts]


1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jun 2, 2011 10:20 pm

[0] No.

A thousand times, "No".

Suzyn Waldman's voice is migraine-inducing. Reminds me of my 6th-grade teacher Mrs. Vitale who used to shriek about dangling participles and run-on sentences.

2 vockins   ~  Jun 2, 2011 10:24 pm

This guy is tripping balls.

3 Dimelo   ~  Jun 2, 2011 11:02 pm

Finally!!! Someone giving these two their props. I absolutely love Sterling, I'm not that big a fan of Suzyn but I can see that she does work hard. I was listening to the Mets radio announcers and they are good, but I find Sterling and Suzyn to have something more to offer. My gf loves Sterling and she's not even a baseball fan, he really is hilarious.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 3, 2011 12:20 am

[3] Sterling & Kay were the best radio combination the Yanks had in the current generation (1996 to present). Since they've separated, they've grown more pompous and annoying to the point of making listeners borderline, but they do deserve a place in Yankees lore because so many people identify with them (but still not in the same realm of Scooter and White). Sterling and Steiner was a complete disaster; two major egos trying hard to top one another instead of calling the freakin' game. I bet is Suzyn didn't sound like she was playing Judy to Sterling's Punch, they'd be more than tolerable.

Sterling's voice is key; it's deep, resonant and flows, even when he's being corny or just plain wrong. He needs a strong tenor to balance him out. Go back to Sterling & Kay's game calling during the early dynasty playoff days; you turned down the sound on the TV not only because you didn't want to deal with McCarver and Buck, but because you had a quality alternative, even after they started delaying the TV broadcasts so it wouldn't sync with the radio because they knew people were doing that.

I'll give Sterling his credit and even Kay, they were great at one time, but they're past their expiration date.

5 Dimelo   ~  Jun 3, 2011 12:46 am

[4] And I just like Sterling cause he makes me laugh. He's so outrageous and over the top with some of the things that he says that I can't help but laugh. I don't think he takes himself too seriously, I can appreciate that. I love when he goes off on numbers, then when it's the next batter he'll cite them all day long. Obviously, as long as they are good numbers. He's f'ing hilarious to me. I really don't think he's past his prime, even if he was senile I'd still listen to him because of the entertainment value.

Suzyn really does do her homework, she knows a lot of baseball and I can appreciate her emotional state in a game played by men and dominated by testosterone. She does get long winded at times, but I can appreciate her eagerness to say something she thinks is meaningful.

Now, none of what I said means that they are any good. I just find them quite entertaining. Sometimes that's as good as it gets, it's still a game in the end.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 3, 2011 1:35 am

[5] I won't take anything away from Suzyn as far was what she knows; I bet she's worked twice as hard as many of her male colleagues to be where she is and she's undoubtedly shattered a lot of glass ceilings. She just doesn't have a radio voice I can appreciate, especially next to Sterling. As for his entertainment value, whatever floats your root beer. He's got some good points, no doubt, but I don't think he's as dominant in his game as he once was.

7 monkeypants   ~  Jun 3, 2011 1:53 am

[0] Their style is conversational rather than testosterone-crazed; it’s almost overheard, as if you were eavesdropping on their tête-à-tête from the next table at Sardi’s.

This is an accurate description...only if qualified by the addition that the conversation at Sardi's is about any topic other than the game being played.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I listen to the opposing broadcast. At least that way I get some sense of what is happening on the field.

8 Boatzilla   ~  Jun 3, 2011 4:15 am

[5] I'm with you 100%. Sterling is just plain fun. He may not call the best game, but he makes it interesting and sounds like he's having a blast doing it. Those home run calls and nicknames are hilarious. "Thuuuuuuu Yankees Win!" is fantastic. And Waldman is the perfect foil for him. Actually, I love her voice. It sounds so East Coast...a bit of Jersey, a bit of Brooklyn on Boston foundation.

9 RIYank   ~  Jun 3, 2011 6:35 am

[8[ I felt that way about her voice for a couple of years. Now I do find it irritating.

[1] Hang on -- is beauty in the eye of the beholder, or the ear of the listener, or what?

10 William J.   ~  Jun 3, 2011 8:22 am

Something tells me Ralph Gardner, Jr. hasn't really listened to a lot of Susan and John. The problem with the conversational style is the listener doesn't have the benefit of seeing everything Susan and John ignore in the process. So, unless you really don't care about the details of the game, that's a negative.

At one time, I thought Sterling was among the best radio broadcasters in the game. He had the perfect combination of knowledge, passion, humor, and, of course, the golden voice. Since his pairing with Kay ended, however, he has drifted considerably (as has Kay). If the Yankees would finally hire a competent partner for him (Waldman is an excellent reporter, but she she is basically Sterling's parrot), I think he could still be an enjoyable listen, but right now, it's very hard to tune in and not be frustrated by the gaps.

11 William J.   ~  Jun 3, 2011 8:28 am

[4] Agree completely about the Sterling & Kay team and what's happened since. I always turned the TV down when they were a team, even if the audio was a little ahead of the picture. Because both men have/had such large egos, being together served as a balance. Now, on YES games, we get CenterStage with Michael Kay, while on radio, it's the John Sterling Show (with special guests the New York Yankees). I expect to tune in one night and hear Waldman begin the broadcast by saying, "Hereeeeeeeee's Johnny!"

In addition to Kay, I also think Sterling did a great job with Jay Johnstone, who was so wacky it forced John to play the straight man.

12 The Hawk   ~  Jun 3, 2011 8:47 am

The writer's premise is flawed in that it seems to assume the rejection of that pair of yahoos is based on principle, which can be argued. Unfortunately it's actually primarily a visceral reaction to hearing annoying people talk.

13 bp1   ~  Jun 3, 2011 8:50 am

I love Yankee radio broadcasts. I like Sterling because he calls the game from a fan's perspective. He's a homer and that is just fine with me. I've said this before, he gets excited when I do, and gets pissed off when I do. He reflects my reaction to the game. I don't need to know the RPM rate of the pitch to enjoy the game. He makes the game fun for me. I know what is going on with the game and can follow it just fine.

Suzyn is a good foil and color person, but sometimes it feels awkward when she's trying to do something while he's calling the game. It's an unusual dance.

"Mets take the lead ..."

"and the pitch, fouled back to the screen"

"... on a two out double by Jose Reyes. In Houston, the ..."

"3-1 pitch coming. High and inside for ball four."

"... Astros lost a tough one to the Phillies"

That's the only thing that bugs me.

I actually look forward to listening to their games, and [4] that freakin' TV delay pisses me off. I can't stand ESPN or FOX baseball broadcasts and would dearly love to be able to synch up the TV and radio.

Only love here for John and Suzyn.

14 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 3, 2011 9:31 am

I don't mind Sterling and Waldman, if I haven't listened to a game on the radio in a while. When I listen to them regularly, it drives me nuts, for the reasons [11] william and [7] monkeypants covered: you get so little information about what's happening in the game.

A radio broadcaster should entertain, and they often do. But job one is to inform, and that's where they (Sterling especially) fail miserably.

I actually like Waldman more than Sterling, and wish that they'd let her do play-by-play. It might cancel out the worst of Sterling's bombasity: the inane home run calls (if I never hear "Robbie Cano, don't cha know" again, it will be too soon), the lack of score updates, the "you just can't predict baseball" bullshit, etc etc etc.

The worst part is, as I said last summer when Steinbrenner passed away, Sterling has the ability to be phenomenal. But he doesn't deliver like he used to. If you could find some way to pull it out of him, this would be a very different conversation.

15 William J.   ~  Jun 3, 2011 9:40 am

[14] I think the way you pull it out of him is finding the right partner...one that will challenge him...make him focus more on the game.

The other thing that bothers me about Sterling is he fabricates excitement, which becomes obvious when you watch and listen at the same time. That ball that is "lineeeeeed" before going "just foul" is usually foul off the bat. Also, the ball that's "popped up"...pause...but lands in the stands was never a risk to stay in play. What's more, the "play at the plate"..."safe"...usually is an uncontested run.

I get the need to make the game seem exciting, but there's no need to pretend. I probably overlooked this trait when I was watching and listening at the same time, but when Sterling becomes your eyes, there's not only a lot of things you don't see, but some of things you do never really happened.

Finally, before it seems like I am being too critical of him, I wouldn't replace Sterling. Instead, I tried to resurrect him by finding a way to accentuate his strengths, which are very, very strong.

16 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 3, 2011 9:58 am

[15] That's a fair point, but unfortunately, the guy who's probably the best partner for Sterling [4] is never going to work in the radio booth again. That would be considered a demotion for Kay, right?

Besides, I think they have both become so used to their current ways that even if they were put back together, it wouldn't work like it used to. That's a shame, because Sterling-Kay was magic. Can someone else redeem Sterling? I don't know. I'd almost be afraid to try, due to possible failure, in which case, Sterling has got to go.

I get the sense when the radio contract is up after this year, that's going to happen, and we'll see if the grass is greener.

17 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 3, 2011 10:40 am

remember Sterling & Kay's off-season call-in/talk show they used to have on 770 back in the day? Now THAT was some wacky radio.

18 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 3, 2011 2:59 pm

They say about some on tv that they have a "face made for radio".

Waldman has a "voice made for flag semaphore".

19 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 3, 2011 4:34 pm

[18] And yet, I'd rather hear her all day than hear Mike Lupica for a minute...

20 Gallego   ~  Jun 4, 2011 1:51 pm

I used to love Sterling & Kay. Never minded the haters, it is a matter of taste. I was OK with their styles and pomposity. But now, Suzyn is un-listenable and her voice is made for magazines. Sterling has gotten worse also, he can't see worth a damn and botches calls constantly. I live in the Atlanta area and I get the games on the mlb app, and I just can't listen to them anymore because I never know what's happening in the game. Hey we all get old, or people's tastes change, we need someone new on the broadcasts. Maybe they can bring Kay back to radio, he just kills the otherwise good work of Cone, Singleton, etc. Sorry about the rant, I don't hate Sterling, I just think he's ready to retire. Or in his case be retired because he won't go of his own accord.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver