"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Ol’ Silver Throat

Bill Pennington profiled John Sterling in the Times the other day:

Sterling came to the Yankees’ radio booth in 1989 and did every game, although his 100 percent work attendance streak began in 1981 in Atlanta.

“I have not missed a game I was supposed to work,” he said. “I am blessed with a good immune system.”

Michael Kay, the Yankees television announcer and Sterling’s radio partner from 1992 to 2001, said: “I do 125 games a season, and that feels like a lot. I don’t know how he has done 162 games a year for 23 years.”

In his time with the Yankees, Sterling has had five broadcasting partners. He has worked with Suzyn Waldman since 2005.

A typical day for Sterling starts late because he stays up late. Besides having an affection for TV soap operas, he is a voracious reader of mystery novels and celebrity biographies. He tries to swim every day for at least a half-hour. On the road, it is a familiar sight at the Ritz-Carltons and other fashionable hotels where the Yankees stay to see a soggy Sterling striding through the ornate lobby in a terry-cloth robe, goggles perched on his head on his way back from the hotel pool.

The piece is well-worth your time.

[Photo Credit: Beatrice de Gea for the New York Times]


1 Dimelo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:30 pm

This was an awesome read. I absolutely adore Sterling, I think he's entertaining and wonderful. I hope he comes back. I love that he's a homer, I love his buffoonery, and I think that's what makes him so appealing. IMHO. I don't think a baseball radio telecast should be so serious. His over the top antics are what I love most, I am always left in shock thinking: is this man really part of the same human race as me?

I don't need to hear a bunch of stats when I'm listening and driving my car, I love that he gets excited when I do, and he gets sad and angry when the team isn't playing as well as expected.

To me Sterling is like a caricature, but it's exactly what I need when I'm listening to him. I love that a malcontent like Mushnick is his biggest critic. That's like the Devil hating you for being too wicked.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 4, 2011 12:33 pm

I've gone back and forth on Sterling over the years but when I don't take him seriously and enjoy his as an entertainer I enjoy him. He makes me laugh.

3 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:33 pm

I appreciate Sterling for all those reasons, Dimelo, but couldn't we have all that *plus* the slightest idea what's going on in the game?

When I listen to, for example, a Mets broadcast on the radio, I feel like I'm in the park. I know when someone steps out, when a pitcher goes to the rosin bag, what pitch he threw last, the count, the score, whether there are men on base and if so, what sort of lead they're taking, where the fielders are positioned... In other words, the guys in the booth report what's going on on the field in (often) exquisite detail, such that I feel locked in and present.

Sometimes I'll tune in to Sterling and it will clearly be a big spot but I have no idea who's winning the game, what inning it is...

I'm all for the monkeying around, if it doesn't interfere with the game. In his case, I'm afraid, more often than not, he serves as a buffer between me and the game.

4 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:43 pm

“I have not missed a game I was supposed to work,” he said.

Well, it all depends on what we mean by "missing" a game. I know that when I listened to Sterling, something that I have not done in years since swearing off the Yankees radio broadcast, I felt like I was missing the game, since he never seems to tell the audience what is going on. I guess I remember a simpler time, when a play-by-play man actually, you know, described the game action, often even while it was unfolding.

5 Dimelo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 1:53 pm

[3] And go figure, I find the Mets guys professional but yet boring.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:08 pm

I find that when I hear an out of town broadcast I appreciate Sterling more. I mean have you ever listened to an A's broadcast or a Diamondbacks broadcast? Its torturous...at least Sterling is never boring.

Sure he flubs his calls sometimes and its style over substance, but so was Scooter and everyone loved him. And yeah I know that Phil was a color guy so it isn't the same thing, but the fact remains I'd rather be entertained.

There is a reason so many people used to mute the TV and put on Sterling and Kay for all those years, ya know.

7 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:37 pm

[6] Sure, if you have a TV feed, then you can follow the game and listen to the random musings of Sterling and Waldman at the same time. But if you happen to rely on the radio alone for the game, Sterling is practically useless.

Regarding out of town broadcasts, when I used to subscribe to MLB.tv radio-only, I only listened to the opposing broadcast. In nine times out of ten it was a breath of fresh air. And, amazingly, I could actually follow the game.

8 RIYank   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:37 pm

[6] Yeah, I agree completely. (I've never heard a D-backs broadcast, but I've heard them in Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Toronto.)

So there is one reason to wish I lived in LA. There might be others, but I can't think of what they are.

9 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:41 pm

I'm also not sure I understand the (false) dichotomy between "professional" (i.e., calls a more traditional play-by-play) and "entertaining." I tune into a ball game to be entertained by the...the game. So if I listen on the radio, I want the announcers to describe the action---that is entertaining to me. Some additional color and analysis is gravy.

10 monkeypants   ~  Oct 4, 2011 2:42 pm

[8] I quite enjoy the Toronto and Cleveland broadcasts. Boston is not so bad. Chicago is awful--that's the one out of ten, I guess [7].

11 RIYank   ~  Oct 4, 2011 3:10 pm

[10] I like the Boston one -- but I would have thought that was a bit idiosyncratic. Toronto is not bad, I agree -- just dull. I found the Cleveland announcers terrible. Now I'm trying to think of who else I've heard.

12 Dimelo   ~  Oct 4, 2011 3:14 pm

[10] Yeah I like Castigliaone from Boston - WAY BACK, WAY BACK. They also have this segment around the 5th inning, what does Tony do on his day off or something to that effect. It's hilarious.

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