The other morning, Deadspin published a piece titled “John Sterling must be stopped.” Those that read it will know it was basically a rundown of all the Sterling home run calls for all the depth players that have made their way into the lineup in recent weeks. It didn’t really target him in any overtly negative way and wasn’t the hit piece the title made it out to seem but plenty of people reacted to the headline, myself included.
The piece barely surpassed 400 words and many of them weren’t directed at John Sterling, but it did get me thinking about the long-time Yankee broadcaster. In his age-81 season, one has to suspect his career is nearing its end. There’s a chance he could pull a Vin Scully and keep on broadcasting until he’s 88, but Scully seems more of the exception not the rule.
While we have him in our lives on a still almost-nightly basis, Yankee fans should appreciate Sterling for what he is, a fun, albeit corny, baseball-loving treasure who should ultimately be memorialized in Monument Park.
Sterling has been a Yankee institution for 30 years now, and there are definitely signs that his time in the booth could be nearing its end. Earlier this summer, he notably took a couple small leaves of absence to deal with an illness, ending his 5,060-game streak in the booth. I don’t want to speculate as to what has been wrong with John, and frankly, it’s not our business if he doesn’t want to disclose it. However, his absences do make me a little concerned about him. This is a guy who didn’t miss a game after losing his house to a fire, after all.
His absence during a handful of games made me confront the fact that there will one day be Yankee games without John Sterling, something I’ve never had to experience in my 25 years. It’s for this reason we should cherish him while he’s still around. Yeah, some of us might roll our eyes at some of his idiosyncrasies, but to me, they’re what make him real and even more enjoyable.
When I hear, “it is high, it is far, it is…” I’m on the edge of my seat. Most of the time, my excitement is warranted because he’ll finish the call with an “it is gone.” Even when it’s finished with “caught at the wall,” I might be a bit upset, but we’ve all thought we saw a homer only for it to not quite make it out of the stadium. It’s part of the ups and downs of fandom. Sterling takes us to the game when we can’t be there. That means a lot to a Yankee fan in Indiana.
Sure, the home run calls can be corny, but are they not always fun and almost always memorable? “Kyle Higashioka, the home run stroka.” “An A-bomb from A-Rod.” “Like a good Gleyber, Torres is there.” As the Deadspin piece showed, this list can go on and on. These calls are nothing but fun, and they’re part of why I keep tuning in to listen. I talk baseball with my Dad quite a bit, and when Sterling debuts a new call, I don’t ask him, “Did you see the game?” I ask, “Did you hear the new call?” It’s evident Sterling loves the Yankees and loves baseball. Can the latter honestly be said about someone like John Smoltz? (Hint, no)
For the last three decades, Sterling’s voice is as synonymous with the Yankees as just about any player or coach that has put on a uniform. He’s a part of this team, and the Yankees should (and most definitely will) honor him with a plaque in Monument Park before he shuts off his mic for the last time. John and Suzyn don’t have any plans to retire, but when someone is 30 years into a gig, they’re probably closer to the end than the beginning. I’m not sure when it’ll end, but I’ve had a hell of a time listening to John Sterling. If you haven’t enjoyed the ride, lighten up a bit. The guy’s just having some fun.