John Sterling, voice of the New York Yankees, is very rarely seen or heard on any shows other than the ones in which his job pertains to. The NYYST Podcast crew was ecstatic when learning that John would be joining them to celebrate their 100th episode of the show.
Listen to episode 100, and the interview in its' entirety, by clicking the player below. The NYYST Podcast can also be found on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and all other major platforms.
INTERVIEW SPONSORED BY BASEBALLISM.COM
We are all excited for the 2019 season to begin. Your first season with the Yankees was in 1989 and you’ve been with the club over 30 years now-- you have seen it all. The Yankees have won 5 World Series in that time-- I know it might be hard to go through all of those memories, but is there one game that really stands out to you out of all the games that you’ve called?
Well you are right, it is impossible to pick out. I haven’t missed a game in my Yankee 30 years. The Torre era, Joe managed 12 years and they made the playoffs 12 years--- well that’s a lot of big games. To get to your question, I always cite the three games in Atlanta in the 1996 World Series. [Yankees] down 0-2 and Atlanta writer, who I knew very well, Mark Bradley, wrote an article, (don’t forget the Braves had won in 95), and he’d written an article when the Yankees got to town that the Braves weren’t really playing the Yankees of 1996, they were playing the Yankees of 1927. This Atlanta Braves team could be called the greatest team in baseball and so the World Series, in effect, was over. So, the Yankees had to win a game, and they did and now its 2 games to 1--- and they’re down 6-0 in the 6th in game 4 and get 3. Then Leyritz ties it with 3 in the 8th and the Yankees shock the Braves. They won in the 10th or 11th inning. The final game in Atlanta was Pettitte beating Smoltz 1-0.
You can go on and on and on but I always think of those 3 games as the three most exciting games in a row. And then of course Joe Torre’s brother gets the heart transplant on the off-day Friday and Saturday night the Yankees win the World Series in Yankee Stadium. Those were pretty good games.
Like you said, you haven’t missed a game in 30 years so you’ve seen a lot of games, a lot of different teams. I’m sure its easy for you to pick out a handful of Yankees that have always been exciting to call a game for. Any opposing players that stand out to you that you’ve always been excited to call?
Oh, yes. First of all, Boston had their great three and four hitters, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. In Seattle, Edgar Martinez just tortured the Yankees. I have seen, obviously you broadcast every game, (also didn’t miss a game with the Hawks and Braves in the 80s in Atlanta so really its 38 years), I have seen a lot of great players. Also, I was raised in New York as a child and immediately became a basketball, baseball, football, hockey fan and I loved seeing the visiting players come in. I rooted for the New York teams but I loved to see the visiting payers and the greatness of the visiting players that would come into the Garden or to Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds, or to Yankee Stadium. So, I’ve always loved the other players as well.
Well John what the Yankee fans love about you is your home run calls. They have become iconic. The first one was “Bern Baby Bern.” Where did that come from? Was that something that you had planned out if Bernie got a big hit in a certain game or was that just a spur of the moment thing that came to you?
No, they all were spur of the moments until the thing, and I am happy about it, became a cottage industry--- and you have to do something for everyone. But in the beginning, it just was certain players-- Bernard King, Dominique with the Hawks--- and then when Bernie, I don’t know why I said it, ‘Bern Baby Bern’ and it caught on--- and he loved it--- and that was kind of the beginning of it with all of the Yankee names.
When the Yankees sign a new player, the very first question the fans ask is what John Sterling’s home run call is going to be for that new player. Did you ever think that it would take off and be this major thing inside the Yankee universe amongst the fans?
Of course not, it just happened, I said what I said. I was doing a game in Atlanta, and I was on TV, and Atlanta was a double deck stadium so the ball was always measured against the stands. In other words, if the ball was going out, you knew it because there weren’t any open spots. Dale Murphy was up and Doc Gooden of the Mets threw a breaking ball and hung it. So, I said, “breaking ball…” --- and you knew Murphy was going to hit it and he hit it--- and I said, “it is high it is far it is gone.” That just came out of my mouth--- as did Bern Baby Bern, and the Giambino and all that nonsense--- and they all caught on and I am eternally grateful to the fans for enjoying it and liking it. And it has become--- as they say now--- you have to say, well what are you going to say for Tulowitzki? What are you going to say for Lemahieu? So, I have to come up with something.
Do you have a favorite of all the ones that you have come up with?
I don’t know if it’s a favorite but I know the one’s that I have heard the most are “an A-bomb from A-Rod,” and “Robby Cano, dontchya know?” Things like that; those you hear all the time.
John you have been the voice of the best franchise in all of sports for 30 years. Again, it might be a difficult question for you to come up with an answer for but what would you say is the most humbling moment of your professional career with the New York Yankees?
I was so excited when I got the Yankee job. I had done the Braves now for 5 years but I was like the junior member of the four-man group--- great group, Ernie Johnson, Skip Carey, Pete VaN Wieren--- but now, this was my team and my game and the first game I did was an exhibition game with Jay Johnstone at West Palm against the Braves (the Yankees were then in Fort Lauderdale). I’m not sure I know what you mean by humbling but it might’ve been after the Yankees won the World Series in 96. Now you are in a car going up Broadway and you are hearing millions of fans do your calls and the cops who are walking along the side doing all the calls--- well, I guess that was pretty humbling.
I’d say so. In your career as you mentioned, you’ve done MLB NHL, NBA and some college football. Do you ever wish you could go back and do some of those other sports again or once you settled in with the Yankees you never even thought to go back to those other sports?
Oh no, I did a Nets game this year--- YES asked me to fill in on a Nets game and I loved it. I got all excited about doing basketball again. As far as looking back, every one of us looks back on our life and says, “gee I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.” I was telling someone about a college choice that I had made and how I made the wrong choice. And “if I had gone to this place…”---- well then we both laughed and said “well its kind of worked out.” So, I don’t look back.
I am amazed that it worked out. I’ll tell you how good it has worked out--- I think I will leave you with this--- I read a book on the making of High Noon. And so, they went into Gary Cooper’s life and in the early 30s when he was becoming a star, he made, just by luck, he made three fabulous movies that will last for all time. And Tom Hanks, who is probably the greatest actor of our generation, who not only does all of these good movie parts where every single one is different, he becomes a different character every time. And [Hanks] mentioned about Gary Cooper’s three movies that he made in a row and he said “any actor would love to have any one of those credits.” So what I’m going to tell you is how lucky I am, how fortunate I am. I have had great jobs in this business for the last, let’s say 55 years, and any broadcaster would have loved to have had the jobs [I’ve had]. I’m not patting myself on the back--- the jobs themselves were big jobs. I was very young--- I did a wild talk show in Baltimore on radio and then it went to tv as well. And then I got the MCA job, sports director and I was doing all of these play by play sports as well as the talk show. And then I went with the Nets for a couple of years and to Enterprise Radio which only lasted 9 months, a talk show and the Washington Bullets and then the job in Atlanta where I did a talk show for a year then the Hawks and Braves for 8 years and that led to the Yankee job. So, any one of those credits would be a very good broadcasting credit. So, I have been very fortunate. It’s a long answer I forget what your question is the answer is so damn long but anyway, I have been very, very fortunate and very, very happy about it.
Well John we cannot thank you enough for spending a few minutes with us on this Saturday afternoon. We believe its next Saturday you and Suzyn will be broadcasting the first Spring Training game of 2019. Youll be in Fort Meyers for the Yankees and Red Sox.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even think of it--- a week from today. And then in Port Charlotte against the Rays a week from tomorrow so we will have kicked off the exhibition season. Just like everyone else, I am very excited about baseball. The Yankees have within themselves, within the clubhouse right now, a team that is good enough to go all the way. Now, I would be lying to you if I told you I knew they were going all the way--- the Red sox can do that, Houston can do that. Over in the other league you have teams like the Dodgers and Cubs and almost every team in the NL East. But anyway, that’s the fun of it, we will find out what happens, when it happens. And by the way, no matter how many shows you listen to, how much MLB you listen to, internet, no one knows what’s going to happen so it’ll be a surprise for all of us.
Thank you very much for doing the interview and we will be looking forward to listen to you and Suzyn calling the Yankee games in 2019. Thanks John.
Well bless you. Thank you very much.