Oct
08

The great John Sterling debate

By

As part of its coverage of the Yankees, the Associated Press wrote up a profile of John Sterling, the so-called silver-tongued voice of the Yankees. Although I’m not a Sterling fan, the piece is fairly amusing. Nick Swisher, in discussing how he was anticipating his own Sterling-ized home run, makes the Yanks’ play-by-play man come across as a cult figure, and amusingly enough, Joe Torre calls Sterling “oblivious.” No matter your thoughts on Sterling, the man has some staying power. Now 61, he has been calling games in the Bronx for 21 years.

So as we await the evening games, allow me to pose a question on John Sterling: Do you like him and his over-the-top play-by-play style? Earlier this season, we wrote about how the Yanks play two games every night: the one on the field and the one in John Sterling’s mind. Yet, the man has his fans, and outside of Derek Jeter, for better or worse, he is one of the most recognizable parts of the Yankee organization. Whether that is a good thing, I do not know.

Categories : Asides
  • Tom Zig

    Sure John Sterling isn’t the best play-by-play guy out there, but there sure are far worse ones.

    Plus I find his HR calls amusing.

    • Salty Buggah

      I find them amusing too.

    • chris

      “happy Tims are here again?????” i heard that last night and turned off the radio. his stupid names and catchphrases after homeruns are nauseating, and it takes every ounce of self controll not to take a pencil and jab it into my ear drums. thank goodness i have XM so i can at least listen to the home team’s feed for yankee away games. both him and waldman need to go and be replaced by hyenas, at least then there would be some entertainment value to listening.

  • Don

    I do enjoy his theatrics but he needs to be pared with an actual baseball analyst with a good enough sense of humor to rib John for his calls.

  • Esteban

    I hate him, though not to the level of hate I have for Suzyn Waldman. He is not the absolute worst when he’s just doing play by play, but once he starts to try analyze baseball, his comments are infuriatingly stupid. Sterling being paired with that creature known as Suzyn Waldman makes listening to Yankees games on the radio an exercise in self-flagellation.

    • Tom Zig

      Oh come on, it isn’t THAT bad. We could have Tim McCarver, Joe Buck, or Joe Morgan calling our games.

      • Esteban

        His incessant praise of “ABC” baseball, constant reminders that “you can all the stats out” and ” you just can’t predict baseball,” and his complete lack of any statistics beyond W/L and the triple crown stats make him highly annoying to listen to. If he were paired with a reasonably intelligent analyst, then sure he would be almost adequate, but Sterling and Waldman combine to make the radio booth an intelligence-free zone.

        • http://CG CG

          I hate John Sterling. Can’t they do what they do on YES? Get a bunch of ex-pros to switch off with a capable, if bland, play-by-play guy playing the straight man?

          If I hear one more almost-homerun call, “It’s high, it’s far, it’s caught by the centerfielder 3 steps a head of the warning track….”, I’m going to go craazy!

          • The Three Amigos

            THat’s the problem he makes every freaking fly ball sound like a home run. It’s like he doesn’t even realize the people listening to him cannot see the play.

      • paUL

        Suzyn is worse than Joe Morgan. It’s not even close

    • It’s Suuuzyn Waaaldman

      I don’t care if your comment went 3 for 4 today, Esteban. You make me squawk and cry. Sexist! Oh Roger, I love you!

    • herb petrillo

      i cannot stomach waldman or sterling and how they keep making excuses for that underachieving cheat-a-roid, or for the other nauseating bile that comes from them, her mostly

  • Salty Buggah

    I’ve posted this once before but this is probably the best time for this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....r_embedded

    (h/t It is high…)

    • Sean

      That’s great. “I’m completely wrong on everything I’ve said”

  • Yankee1010

    I hate him. When most people listen on the radio in this day and age, they’re listening to get information about the game, not his shtick/”entertainment”. If you’re listening to the game on the radio, good luck trying to figure out what is actually happening.

    But you know, you can never predict baseball radio play-by-play.

  • Esteban

    At the game last night, I finally witnessed the Sterling Shake in person.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5hK90Itwb8 (from a 2008 game)

  • TheZack

    If Sterling were calling tv games, people would absolutely loathe him.

    As it is, he fundamentally fails to do his #1 job as a radio play by play guy, which is to, well, describe the plays. If you are listening on the radio, you can’t see the action. Calling the game on the radio isn’t about stupid nicknames, catch phrases, or anything else, Its about reproducing the action, atmosphere, and magic of a baseball game, and Sterling simply fails miserably at that.

    The reason he has stuck so long as the Yankees radio voice is because he is a complete shill for the Yanks, never saying anything bad about the organization, rarely criticizing a Yankee player, and readily endorsing with full bluster whatever is put before him.

    Its sad that the state of Yankee broadcast has fallen so far that Yankees fans would actually say that Sterling is just fine. This is the Yankees, saying he’s “not the worst” shouldn’t really cut it.

    • wilcymoore

      + 100.

      TheZack is right on point. Sterling does a very poor job of baseball radio announcing, the main object of which is to describe the play on the field.

      When you have been calling baseball games on the radio for 20+ years, it seems to me you should be able to recognize the flight of the ball, where it’s going, what the outcome is likely to be … all accurately and succinctly. It is extremely frustrating to listen to Sterling and try to follow what’s happening. You pretty much have to wait until the play is over and then find out what happened. Sterling’s simply not capable of describing the action as it occurs.

    • Peedlum

      Exactly. Listen to Vin Scully do a game and tell me that Sterling is even close. Suzyn Waldman is up in that Keanu Reeves pantheon of how the ()%&#%()&% did you get any of those jobs?!?

  • Jersey

    I still like him, but not as much as I once did. He was at his best with Michael Kay, and pretty good with Steiner. I think those two helped to keep him in check. Now without another strong presence his general kookiness just bubbles over.

    That said, he’s like the old family dog at this point. He smells, he doesn’t run or jump like he used to, he creaks around the house, but…he’s still your dog.

    • It’s Suuuzyn Waaaldman

      When my dog got to that point, we off’d her. No farms. Just the vet’s office. We didn’t even lie to her. In fairness, the state of New Jersey required that she be killed (for biting kids in the neighborhood and the electrician).

      • Jersey

        Well, when Sterling starts biting kids and electricians, we’ll know what to do.

  • ryan

    The only thing worse than sterling’s aimless commentary is the sound of waldman’s high pitched whiney voice

  • JMK aka The Overshare

    Any suggestions on who would be a good play-by-play guy for the future? I think Swisher would be great after he retires with his 8 WS rings.

  • pat

    We can shit on Sterling all day but nobody in their right mind doesn’t like BALL GAME OVER…… With that being said I just wish he was a little more accurate with the play by play and wasn’t so quick on the trigger with his IT IS HIGH….

    • Yankee1010

      Well yeah, but that’s because the Yanks won. That has nothing to do with his call.

      • Peedlum

        Correlation with a good moment has probably helped with that affinity.

  • The Walrus Was Paul

    I don’t really mind his over-the-top style (not that I like it), it’s the stupid things he says, and the all the mistakes he makes (John: “It is high, it is far, it is gone! No wait, it was caught by the right fielder at the warning track. I thought that was gone.” Suzyn: “Well, I did too John.”

  • Nels

    I’ve grown to like Sterling. He’s not the greatest announcer by any stretch, and while he says things that can be frustrating at times, as I Yankees fan, it always feels great to hear him say his catchphrases, since it means the Yanks hit one out or won. I also think people blow the issue of his messed up calls way out of proportion, 95% or more of the time he calls the game fine, and corrects himself right away.

  • AndrewYF

    The only reason I like Sterling is because of his voice. It’s absolutely perfect for radio.

    • pat

      So’s his face. HIYOOOOOOOOOO

  • joesit.(ragman)

    I take him for what he is, a NEW YORK YANKEE fan who calls the game on radio, NOT tv. Puts some fun in his calls and I like him.

  • Hi, I’m Jerry, this is my associate Cornelius

    Give me Gary Thorn doing play-by-play…Now that guy is good….But with that said, Sterling is quite annoying at times, but something about his blatant disregard for objectivity I like…and you’re right Pat, I do dig his ball game over schtick.

    • pat

      It’s fun to do, like singing along to your favorite song.

    • Nels

      I agree that Throne is absolutely great.

  • DF

    See, I want to join you guys in your Sterling-hate. But I was a kid when the Yankees won the Series in ’96, and my ultra-strict parents wouldn’t let me stay up on school nights to watch the games. The only way I could follow the playoff games was to listen to Kay and Sterling on the radio.

    As a result, I’ve developed a totally irrational, emotionally-charged affection for the two of them. I totally agree with you guys when you lambast his idiocies. But I can’t help it. I love listening to him.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      You mormons party hard.

    • Pasqua

      If you listen to games (sometimes replayed on YES with the radio call overdubbed) from that late 90’s, they are actually really, really good together. They work off of each other well and keep the conversation moving. I can totally understand your point. Problem is, today, Sterling is a “wait for the pause so I can speak” announcer with absolutely nothing new to contribute.

  • Hi, I’m Jerry, this is my associate Cornelius

    I believe this is the game that began the Yankees win!! Thee Yankees win..I remember this game like it was yesterday..

    http://www.retrosheet.org/boxe.....YA1991.htm

    • pat

      A Mel Hall walkoff, interesting.

      • JGS

        and Dave Eiland starting

      • deadrody

        I vaguely remember that game. I think my family was there, but I couldn’t go. But I saw the end on TV and I distinctly remember seeing Tony Pena, the Sox catcher that day, throw his mask into the ground as soon as Hall hit that ball.

  • Hi, I’m Jerry, this is my associate Cornelius

    He once said after a homer against Detroit, “Mel Hall, having a ball, a the Yankees lead, 2-0.”

  • Bman

    I love Mr. Sterling, he makes the games fun to listen to. As a 27 year old listening to John Sterling is all I remember anyway! I don’t care if he misses a call once in awhile, that in itself can be amusing.

  • Pasqua

    I truly believe that John Sterling does a disservice to Yankees fans in each and every day. He spends every. single. game. pontificating on the fact that “you can’t predict baseball,” the attendance, his hatred of “stats” (despite the fact that he rattles them off constantly) and, meanwhile, he punctuates every statement with the only adjective he knows: “amazing.”

    This, and I haven’t even begun to analyze the fact that he “paints a picture” for his listener about as well as an artist with no hands, feet, or mouth.

    He used to be very good. He has since become his biggest fan, and when that happens, there is no coming back.

    • Esteban

      this

  • NYCOUG

    I live in Seattle now and GOD do I feel fortunate that I don’t have to hear Suzyn Waldman call ballgames anymore!I came home this year and I was shocked they hadn’t fired her yet! Is she Steinbrenner’s mistress or something?? John Sterling is livable compared to her annoying voice! Her crying during a interview a few years ago still cracks me up!

    • JGS

      also, her ridiculous reaction when Clemens showed up in New York in the middle of that season

      I lived in Boston for four years, they replayed that clip on the radio constantly

  • nick blasioli

    say what you will about john sterling…i like his broadcasts….just remember…no one is perfect, no matter what they are doing…i enjoy his comments and i also like susan as well..the players have a rigorous schedule…the announcers also have that same schedule…think about it…

    • Pasqua

      Okay, I thought about it (not really), and I’m sticking with my belief that none of this excuses the shoddy, inaccurate, redundant broadcast that Sterling produces 162 times a year. And, please, if staying in 5-star hotels and flying first class constitutes “rigorous” hardship than I’ll gladly take the job.

  • Guest

    I’ve thought about this issue far too much. Here are my thoughts.

    First of all, I grew up in a house without cable. I also didn’t go away to camp of any form (sleep away or day) as a kid. I was also obsessed with the Yankees. John Sterling WAS my summer. And I loved him. I thought everything about him–the voice, the whole “theeeeee Yankeeeees WIIIIIIN!!!!” thing, the excitement he brought to every big play–was great.

    As I matured in my baseball fandom, I started to like him a whole lot less. The mistakes became more grating. The shockingly erroneous analysis became more infuriating. I definitely soured.

    A couple of summers ago I spent another cable-less baseball season with my then girl-friend now wife listening to Sterling on the radio. She found his stupidity to be…well…stupid. But she found his enthusiasm to be infectious. She is now a die-hard fan and partially credits Sterling for this fact.

    I think my wife has it right. Sterling is definitely a mixed bag. His weak analysis and subjugation of facts to schtick are maddening. But there is something to be said for his enthusiasm and, yes, even the levity he brings to the game. Admit it: the home-run calls are so terrible they are awesome. I dare you to watch a Swisher homerun without thinking “SWISHALICIOUS.” I dare you.

    • Pasqua

      This really captures the Sterling experience nicely. The “so bad it’s good” reaction from fans like you (and me) is damn near spot-on.

  • Bryan

    My personal favorites: “You just cant predict baseball” (if he doesnt say that at least once a game its heresy)

    And

    “An A-bomb from Aro…Hideki!”

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      the A-bomb one almost made me wet my pants…the sheer…here it comes…amazement of combining a Japanese player and nucular (hey, i’m a gwb (thats bush the younger to those of you living close to the bridge) fan–what can i say?) bombs was entirely too much for me to take!
      :D

  • ND Mike

    If you’ve ever had to suffer through a game the Ed Farmer (White Sox) or Ron Santo (Cubs) have announced, you would thank the stars above that John and Suzyn are on our side.

  • deadrody

    Sterling is fine when paired with a strong willed, capable color commentator, like when he was with Michael Kay. Suzyn Waldman is her own brand of terrible and together they are abysmal.

  • Will

    Yeah, when you consider how long he’s been with the organization, his job is probably safe.

    Keep YOUR family’s financial future safe with MetLife insurance! MetLife… the company you keep.

    Powered by Jeep.

  • moonimus

    I can’t stand Sterling and Waldman in the booth. It makes listening to a game in the car a painful experience. I wasn’t all that thrilled with Sterling and Kay either. As one of the best organizations in baseball with its own control over radio and tv announcers, you would think they could also get the best announcers in the game as well.

  • Ellis

    I think they’re both great. Waldman gives nice pitch analysis and color commentary, while Sterling’s enthusiasm is infectious. Plus, his voice reminds me of my childhood, listening to the Yanks in the late 90s.

    No complaints here.

  • currambayankees

    Why would any one waste words on Sterling is beyond me. Sterling, Kay and Waldman all suck and shouldn’t be anywhere near a mic. Specially announcing games for the greatest franchise in sports.

  • Mister Delaware

    I’d tolerate him far easier if he could still call a game. It gets tiring listening to the fan reaction to figure out whats going on in the “actual baseball game”.

  • My Pet Goat

    Hate.

    • Marsha

      Yeah, hate.

  • Jimmy

    I can’t stand the phony shtick with the homerun calls and the forced end of game nonsense. And the constant sucking up to the Yankees is embarassing. The guy is a clown. He’s lucky that Waldman is there to make him look good.

    Being a clown is not a terrible thing. The Scooter was a bit of a clown. He was guneine and everyone liked him. This guy Sterling is just ….. blech.

    • Pasqua

      I could handle the schtick if it wasn’t performed in order to mask a complete disregard for what’s happening on the field. That’s what kills me; his inability (or refusal) to articulate anything that’s happening in the game.

  • Shane D.

    I have very good memories of listening to John Sterling and Michael Kay on my dad’s shitty beach radio in the summer. John Sterling is A-OK in my book, even if he is a tool stuck in the late 70’s. He has a great radio voice even though he is a bit quirky.

  • Peedlum

    I like David Cone–he has the potential to be humorously senile a la the Scooter.

  • Pasqua

    When Kay went to YES and they paired Sterling up with Charlie Steiner it created a very bad situation, as John suddenly was forced to share the air with a man who likes the sound of his own voice nearly as much as Sterling. Over the course of that season you could virtually feel the quality of the broadcasts deteriorate. The vocal pomposity reached epic heights, and Sterling never recovered. Steiner was a foe, and Waldman is an enabler. This has helped to create a monster.

    • ZacheryStripes

      we get it,Pasqua, you despise Sterling & Waldman. Please, learn to understand many in the Universe love the duo, as well.

      And that includes me, a giant Sterling & Suzie Waldman Fan!!

    • ramonesfan

      I couldn’t have said it any better

      @ZacheryStripes: I feel sorry for you …

  • misterd

    I worked a job from 91-97 that made it impossible to watch games on TV, so all I had was the radio. I enjoyed Kay and Sterling, but Sterling wasn’t doing much play by play then. I also enjoyed Suzyn back when she was covering the Yanks for WFAN.

    Then I got to watch TV in the summers again, and fell out of touch. Listening to them now…

    I don’t know if I’ve changed or its them but they can be insufferable. John still has a great radio voice, and there is something nice about listening to an “old friend”, but he’s caved into his worst indulgences. I am sure he enjoys his job and his team, but his calls now seem more about feeding his own ego than creating excitement. I remember when he didn’t do the “Sterling Shake” for EVERY victory. And I absolutely abhor his “Tex message” schtick. And Suzy… maybe if she were paired with someone with a smaller ego, someone who could do actual play by play she would work better. But the two of them feed into each other’s worst habits.

    The Yankees being the Yankees, we are likely stuck with Sterling until he retires or dies – and either will likely be followed by John Sterling day, with retired mike and all. Maybe then we can get someone who has a clue.

  • murg

    I hate hate hate John Sterling. For years I have tried to figure out how to organize a boycott of the games’ advertisers to force him off the air. Finding myself with no option but the radio leads to agonizing-can I bear his idiotic cliches better than I can bear not following the action. He is an embarrassment to the best franchise in baseball.

    • CHRIS

      Amen. Sign me up for the boycott!

      • Marsha

        Me too. And get someone get Waldman some voice coaching.

        • Marsha

          I mean: can someone get Waldman some voice coaching?

  • RCK

    I hate John Sterling. He thinks every long fly ball is a home run, constantly messes up the count, last night he barely even reported that the runner had scored on the passed ball. I could go on and on. He’s terrible. An embarrassment to the franchise.

  • ZacheryStripes

    What is truely sad and disgusting is the hatred of those who are opposed to this man. While, so many of his critics point out his many fallicies, I ask you how are two of national broadcast teams of Miller & Morgan and McCarver & Buck any better?

    These two duos lack any professionalism, accuracy or compassion during their painful telecasts. Listening every Saturday afternoon, I can tell you how much agony and anger boils in my heart and mind listening to Buck & McCarver over the years. Their anti- Yankee bias is so extreme that no fan of the Bronx Bombers can survive without falling into a deep depression. Same goes for the idiots on NESPN Sunday night baseball.

    The difference with Sterling is how you know what you’re getting with him- a pro- Yankee telecast. Fine, I can always respect an honest perspective- especially from a point of view you rarely hear- a kind and loving portrayal of our Yankees. I appreciate that so much after being abused with all the hatred from NESPN, SNY, MSG and FOX.

    And what’s with all the hate for Suzie Waldman? One of the nicest and kindest gals you could ever have behind the mic. Lay off this professional and good lady.

    I will dread the day this lovely pair ride off into the sunset and I can only hope whoever replaces Sterling has the heart to match his regular radio broadcast chops.

    • CHRIS

      John Sterling isn’t a Yankee fan, he’s a John Sterling fan. He thinks you, I and everyone else tune in to hear him go through his “clever” signature calls. Someone should tell him we’re listening to hear the game.

    • Steven Courville

      I couldn’t agree more. it simply would not be Summer without John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. The New York Yankees Radio Network would not be the same without them. In fact, my favorite way to watch a game(especially post season games…) is on my Sony flatscreen on Mute with TNYYRN on for play by play.

      I love them. They are as much a part of the franchise as Frank Sinatra singing New York New York. Period

    • CCV

      Zachary, are you ACTUALLY trying to argue that Jon Miller sucks? Wow.

  • HC

    The only thing worse than John Sterling is Suzyn Waldman and Blue Balls. He doesn’t describe the game- he thinks we tune in to hear his shtick. The fact that the greatest organization in professional sports have these two clowns as their radio voice is a travesty. Kay has become tolerable because he realized that the broadcast is no about him and he’s become good at deferring to and setting up the guys in the booth. Get rid of these fools.

  • Ben S

    Personally, I find him very entertaining to listen to. It’s probably because many things he says are so ridiculous its funny, but nonetheless, I have a blast when I hear that man speaking. It’s not like he doesn’t tell you anything, and to be honest, if he says something incorrect and then corrects himself, I’m OK with that. When I am listening on the radio, I just need to know the jist of what is going on, not every detail.

  • CHRIS

    This guy has to be one of the biggest clowns that ever stepped foot in a broadcast booth. And I don’t mean that in a charming way a la Rizzuto. Maybe jackass is a better word. Any self-respecting Yankee fan should be embarassed by this guy’s schtick. Between his antics and Waldman the radio broadcast makes me cringe. One is in hopelessly in love with the Red Sox and the other with himself. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, get rid of both of them.

    • Marsha

      IETC.

  • Brian Harvey

    I have no qualms with Sterling. Yes, he’s over the top, and his game calling gets a little ridiculous at times, but at least he keeps my attention. I think he does a decent job of calling a game. Plus, living in New Hampshire, I don’t really have the option of listening to anyone else call a game (I get yankees games on an AM station here). Its better than what some teams have. I remember the Atlanta broadcasts on TBS and those were the most boring announcers ever. I think they were in a retirement home. And Don Orsillo and the Rem-Dog often put my girlfriend (a sox fan) to sleep. So i guess I think he’s OK.

  • Tony

    I love sterling – he is very entertaining.. I want my announcer to be an an apologetic Yankee fan & Sterling is that. Baseball is a fun pasttime for me & Sterling adds to the fun.

  • Pingback: The John Sterling conundrum | River Avenue Blues

  • nd

    in your article, you say Sterling is 61, actually he s 71 born 7/4/1938. The age on Wikipedia is erroneous on purpose. When the man worked in the 80’s for the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, he was going on 50 then. Why no one “did the math” in NY is beyond me. But here are a couple of links.

    http://www.newsday.com/sports/.....-1.1401804

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports.....ers1_N.htm

  • Garth

    Only Yankees fans enjoy Sterlings broadcasts. I can enjoy almost any ballgame and over the years have listened to Oriole, Indians or Phillies over the radio, especially on long drives, even though not being a fan of any of those teams. But the Yankees… they are painful for non Yankee fans to have to endure. It is a shame that the number one sports franchise in the U.S. has such a “homer” announcing their games. I love baseball but hate listening to Sterling and those awful tags he applies to the Yankee players when they hit a home run. Here’s an idea for the Yankees – get an announcer that measures up to the number 1 market, and while you’re at it raise the right field wall in the “New Yankee Stadium” and turn it into a major league field.

  • AndrewYF

    Okay…the comment I replied to disappeared. Please delete both of my replies here.