When Raul Ibañez's tying and winning home runs sailed into the stands at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, John Sterling bellowed his trademark calls.
Twice: "It is high! It is far! It is gone!"
Those are Sterling's trademark calls. But they are not trademarked calls.
Sterling has not gone through the process of trademarking his signature game and home run calls. Neither has YES broadcaster Michael Kay with his "See Ya!" home run call, though he said he once looked into it.
Why should they have? Well, it can be a lucrative business decision for broadcasters and athletes. The most recent example is Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who on Tuesday was awarded the trademark rights to the phrase "Tebowing" by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
That means only Tebow can legally sell T-shirts or coffee mugs or anything else with the phrase "Tebowing" on it. "Tebowing" is the pop-culture phenomenon in which people take photos of themselves mimicking the quarterback's on-field praying stance and post them on the Internet.
Given that Sterling's calls often are turned into T-shirts that Yankees fans gladly wear, how does he feel about not getting a piece of the action?
"I'm so stupid that I haven't!" Sterling said Wednesday in the WCBS radio booth before Game 3 of the ALDS. "Stupid! Lazy and stupid. Really."
One of the most famous examples of a sports announcer turning a catchphrase into gold is boxing announcer Michael Buffer, who trademarked "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!" in 1992. That decision was worth as much as $400 million to Buffer, according to a 2009 ABC News story.
Then-Lakers coach Pat Riley trademarked "3-peat" and "three-peat" in 1988 when his team was going for a third consecutive NBA title. Derek Jeter has the trademark rights to "Turn 2," which is the name of his charitable foundation. Alex Rodriguez owns the trademark rights to "A-Rod." Reggie Jackson owns the rights to "Mr. October."
Kay said he had his agent look into trademarking "See Ya!" but decided against it.
"It was actually a very long process and it was going to be somewhat expensive," Kay said. "But it was going to have to be 'Michael Kay's See Ya', which we thought was cumbersome. So we decided not to do it. But now that I see it on T-shirts, I wish I had."
Said Sterling: "I'm in Tampa, exhibition season -- have you been to that ballpark? -- if you go to the top row, there's a walkway right near the window of the booth. So a guy stands up right outside the window, and the back of his shirt has, 'The Yankees Win! Theeeeee Yankees Win!'
"Then he turns around. On the front of it, it had every saying. Every single one! And I said, 'I should be paid for that!' And it really annoyed me. So I'm too late, obviously. I should do it. How do I look into it? I need a lawyer."
With Jim Baumbach