Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

John Sterling insists he has no idea what he will say when Alex Rodriguez gets his 3,000th career hit. And he insists he did not have any idea what he would say the last time he went down this path, with Derek Jeter in 2011.

"No, no," the radio play-by-play man said before Rodriguez reached 2,999 with two hits against the Marlins last night. "Not only that, I don't even know what I said [for Jeter's]. I honestly don't."

For the record, Sterling offered a strong, clean call when El Capitan reached 3,000 with a home run to leftfield at the Stadium off David Price. (Michael Kay also had a keeper on the TV side for YES.) Said Sterling in 2011, "Here comes the 3-2 from Price. Swung on and hit in the air to deep left! That ball is high! It is far! It is . . . gone! He homers! Derek Jeter to tie the game, and there it is: hit number 3,000.

"Derek Jeter has achieved another milestone in his Hall of Fame career -- 15 playoff appearances, 12 All-Star Games, five world championships and now the first Yankee to amass 3,000 hits. The Captain, Derek Jeter."

Four years later, I asked whether Sterling had not at least jotted down those numbers to make it easier to rattle them off when the time came.

"I try to do everything extemporaneously," he said. "I think when you prepare something it sounds prepared. Anything I've done well in the business, it's been extemporaneous -- talk shows and play-by-play.

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"I think you can overdo it when A-Rod gets his 3,000th. I think you just have to state the obvious . . . I have not thought about anything. I think I'll just yell, 'It's the 3,000th hit!' "

Of course, stating the obvious is a tad more complicated when it comes to Rodriguez than it was with Jeter. But even though Sterling understands the controversial backstory, he said it will not affect the way he looks at the milestone. "I've made my feelings clear on this," he said. "It was the steroid era. I don't know how many -- and neither does anyone else, 200, 300, 400 -- took steroids. And pitchers did it as well as hitters.

"So for me, there's a lot of terrible things in the world. But a ballplayer taking PEDs is not one of them. So that doesn't enter into it."

Sounds like Sterling will not be mentioning Biogenesis or Cousin Yuri in his call.

"I don't have any problems with A-Rod at all and hopefully he doesn't have any problems with me," he said. "I'm very happy for him and very proud of what he's accomplishing this year and we'll see what the rest of the year holds for him."


Sterling said the Yankees' first post-Jeter season has been "very interesting" to observe. It followed an even more interesting offseason for him, and not in a good way.

In January, a fire gutted his apartment building in Edgewater, New Jersey, destroying all of his possessions and displacing him and hundreds of others.

Sterling said he since has settled into a new building with an apartment overlooking the Hudson River, and remains thankful both that no one was injured in the blaze and that the reaction to it showed him just how many friends he has.

"It was very, very heartwarming," he said. "I had so many offers to stay in so many places. Every day I'd have a tear come to my eye when people reached out to me."

This time of year Sterling does not get to spend much time at home. But this weekend could offer at least one particularly interesting day at the office. "When it happens, it happens and I'll say what I say," he said of No. 3,000, when A-Rod still was at 2,997. "I hope I do a nice job."