John Sterling speaks during the Yankees' World Series victory celebration at...

John Sterling speaks during the Yankees' World Series victory celebration at City Hall on Nov. 6, 2009. Credit: Getty Images

Suzyn Waldman, who knows John Sterling professionally better than anyone else does, summed things up nicely on Monday.

“Nothing will ever be the same,” she told Newsday shortly after her longtime Yankees radio partner announced his retirement. “It can’t be. Life goes on and we all go on, but nothing will ever be the same.

“He’s one of a kind. You can’t even describe his personality because that would diminish it. There will never be another person like that.”


That was the ride Sterling took Yankees fans on starting in 1989, when he brought his unique approach to sportscasting from Nets and Islanders games in the 1970s –and after a detour to Atlanta – up to the Bronx.

Sterling had plenty of detractors, who had some valid complaints. In the 2010s there were those in and around Yankees radio who were ready to move on from him altogether, which for a time was a real possibility.

His biggest failing was not so much anticipating calls that turned out to be wrong, which got most of the attention. It was that fans who actually listened live and relied on Sterling’s accounts of the action too often were not quite sure exactly what was going on.

But he and Waldman eventually outlasted their critics to the point that their iconic status secured their positions in the booth until they were ready to leave.

Sterling got to that point on Monday. He has had health problems, but in interviews with Newsday and elsewhere, he suggested he was worn down by the job and looking forward to doing other things with his time.

He told Newsday he “rued” the coming start of the season and soon realized he had enjoyed the autumn and winter more than he was enjoying early spring.

“If I had any guts, I would have quit on March 1,” he said.

In an interview on WFAN, he said, “I just don’t want to do any more work. I’ve worked for 64 years and in July I’ll be 86. So, let’s face it: My time has come.”

The irony of Sterling’s career arc is that for a technologically challenged 85-year-old, the 2020s were a sweet spot for his brand.

Fewer people, especially young ones, watch or listen to entire games like they used to, consuming sports in highlights, sound bites and social media posts.

Sterling’s shtick was a perfect fit for that. Colorful home run calls, shots of the booth while he punctuates victories, the occasional goofy conversational detour . . . that’s how a lot of people follow their media favorites these days.

Few characters fit that bill better than Sterling, a lifelong ham who is certain to have a grand time at the Stadium on Saturday when he is properly celebrated.

Quite simply: For most Yankees fans of the past 36 years, he has enhanced the overall experience of being a Yankees fan.

Generations of players have turned into fans themselves when it comes to the Sterling experience. Aaron Judge said on Monday that players anticipate his home run calls for newcomers, just as you and I do.

Derek Jeter, whose every major league at-bat was chronicled by Sterling, posted on “X” on Monday:

“Congrats to John Sterling on an amazing career. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and working with John for decades. He is a major part of Yankee history and will be greatly missed.”

Some of us are old enough to remember his even wackier 1970s persona, when he was a volatile sports talk host in the pre-WFAN days and famously celebrated goals for the home team with, “Islanders goal! Islanders goal! Islanders goal!”

Brendan Burke, the current Islanders TV play-by-play man, paid tribute to Sterling on Monday by calling the final Islanders goal of the regular season in that style.

(Burke’s name is certain to come up as a potential replacement for Sterling, but when analyst Butch Goring floated that idea on the air, Burke would not touch it.)

However the Yankees and WFAN choose to fill Sterling’s spot, they should keep Waldman in the booth as a nod to tradition and to her own unique persona, and give her the play-by-play reps she did not get with Sterling sitting beside her.

But as Waldman herself said, “Nothing will ever be the same. It can’t be.”


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