John Sterling (sportscaster)

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John Sterling
John Sterling.jpg

John Sterling in 2010
New York Yankees
Born: (1938-07-04) July 4, 1938 (age 79)
As Broadcaster

John Sterling (born John Sloss;[1] July 4, 1938[2])[3] is an American sportscaster best known as the radio play-by-play announcer of Major League Baseball‘s New York Yankees. He has announced every Yankees game since 1989.[4][5]

Early life

Sterling grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, in the East 80s.[6] He was the son of advertising executive Carl H.T. and Gladys (Hodrov) Sloss. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, John was one year old and living with the family in Manhattan when the census was taken on April 4.[2] He briefly attended Moravian College, Boston University, and the Columbia University School of General Studies before leaving school to begin his career in radio at a small station in Wellsville, New York.[7]

Broadcasting career

Early career

Sterling began his broadcasting career in Baltimore, where he served as the play-by-play announcer for the then-Baltimore Bullets for the 1970–71 NBA season. He also did play-by-play for Morgan State University football, a role that he held from 1971 to 1978.

Sterling came to New York broadcasting as a talk show host with WMCA in 1971. He later served as the radio voice for the WHA‘s New York Raiders, the WFL‘s New York Stars, the NHL‘s New York Islanders (where he was paired with Bob Lawrence), and the ABA/NBA‘s New York/New Jersey Nets (where he was paired mainly with Mike DeTomasso). Sterling also did a stretch with the Yankees as pre-game host on WMCA and WINS radio, as well as co-host on cable segments with Mel Allen.[5]

From 1975 through 1980, Sterling announced Nets and Islanders games for WMCA, WVNJ, WOR-TV, and SportsChannel New York, continuing his WMCA talk program until 1978.[5] After his initial stint in New York, Sterling spent nine years in Atlanta hosting a sports call-in show on WSB radio and covering the Braves (1982–1987) and Hawks (1981–1989) for Turner Sports.[5]

New York and the Yankees (1989–present)

In 1989, Sterling returned to New York to broadcast the games for the Yankees on WABC radio. He has been with the Yankees ever since, currently calling games on WFAN radio and its affiliates in the New York Yankees Radio Network. Since 2005, he has been paired with Suzyn Waldman; past announcing partners include: Jay Johnstone (1989–1990), Joe Angel (1991), Michael Kay (1992–2001), and Charley Steiner (2002–2004).[5] In 2013, the Yankees announced a move to WFAN over the next ten years, and Sterling was retained.[8] His contract was extended through the 2017 season on February 12, 2016.

On December 16, 2017, Sterling’s contract was extended through the 2018 season.[9]

Sterling’s association with the Yankees is not limited to announcing live games over the radio. He is also host of the YES Network‘s Yankeeography series, which produces biographies of New York Yankees. Among several nominations, Sterling has received two Emmy Awards for the series.[10] He also hosts the introductions and recaps for Yankees Classics. In addition, Sterling has a nightly commentary feature on WCBS-TV newscasts called “Sterling on Sports”, in which he gives his take on a recent sporting event or sports news item.[11] This commentary airs nightly during the 6:15 PM sports report.

Sterling and former broadcasting partner Michael Kay commonly work together representing the Yankees. They announce the annual Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day.[12] They have presided at the “Key to the City” ceremonies following Yankee World Series victories in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. The pair often serve as masters of ceremonies on and off the field for major Yankee events, including the 2000 ticker-tape parade held in the Yankees’ honor after their World Series win.[13][14] Sterling has emceed several Yankees pre-game ceremonies including the number retirements of Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera‘s number retirement in 2013 and Monument Park induction (2016), and the 20th anniversary of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series victory in 2016.

Other Work

From 2013 through 2017 Sterling announced the Kitten Bowl on the Hallmark Channel.

Announcing mannerisms

John Sterling broadcasting a game.

Sterling has several idiosyncrasies that mark his broadcasts as distinctive, very unusual, if also divisive.[15] In addition to a colorful vocal personality, Sterling has distinguished himself for sometimes characterizing plays differently than they may appear and for his announcing errors, habits that spark high feelings in fans and lead to comparisons with announcers like Phil Rizzuto. [16][17]

Following the final out of a Yankees victory, Sterling calls “Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeee Yankees win![5][15] The length of the word “the” is held longer after dramatic victories, as well as after victories resulting in championships (which Sterling also punctuates by saying the name of whichever series is over). It has been played over the public address system at Yankee Stadium after every Yankees victory for the past several seasons, right before Frank Sinatra‘s cover of “Theme from New York, New York” is played.[18] The phrase evolved from Sterling’s call of Mel Hall‘s game-winning three-run homer in the ninth inning on May 27, 1991, to give the Yankees a dramatic Memorial Day win over the Boston Red Sox.[19]

One of his signature radio remarks is his home run call “It is high, it is far, it is gone![20] He devises a personalized catchphrase for every Yankee player.[21] Sterling is known for giving each player a personalized home run call.[22]

For back to back home runs, especially homers from opposite sides of the plate, Sterling references Harry Belafonte‘s “Zombie Jamboree” by saying “it’s a back to back! … and a belly to belly!” In addition, sometimes before a pitch he will say “theeeeeee pitch”, lengthening the word the. If a batter swings and misses, Sterling will often say “cuuuuut on-and-missed”, elongating the word cut, followed by on-n-miss pronounced as one quick word. After a strikeout swinging, he says “STRUCK HIM OUT SWINGING!”, and for a strikeout looking he calls “STRIIIIKE THREE!”, elongating the ‘I’ in strike.

In all cases when Sterling emphasizes the word “the”, as is one of his signatures, he uses not the long ē (“thee”) but the schwa ə (“thuh”).


Sterling is heavily criticized in the media, with over 100 websites dedicated to denigrating his style and calls.[23] Many baseball writers and websites have ranked him the worst or close to the worst of current baseball radio announcers.[24][25] Much of the criticism stems from calling balls home runs that are not home runs, mixing up fair and foul balls, and his personalized home run calls, which some people view as “over-the-top” or “too much”.[26] Regularly criticized by Craig Carton and Phil Mushnick for his inaccurate calls,[27] Mushnick has called him a “dishonest, self-promoting clown”.[28] He has also been heavily criticized for making the call of the game more about himself than the play on the field[29] with over the top excitement for routine plays or insignificant events.[30] Many of his critics further accuse him of blaming someone or something else for his confusion.[31] He has also been consistently rated one of the most biased sportcasters in the industry.[32][33]

The New York Times has described John Sterling as “frequently awful and laughable”, often miscalling plays or not describing a play accurately – blaming confusion on the field or other reasons. This is in despite of the fact that other announcers called the same play with almost complete accuracy for television or the opponents broadcast.[34] The New York Daily News was also critical of Sterling’s domineering of the booth, whereas most teams employ a two-man booth where duties are shared, Sterling does 100% of all play-by-play with his partner, Suzyn Waldman limited to ancillary commentary.[35]

Jim Norton of The Opie and Anthony Show routinely mocks Sterling’s player nicknames and his emphasis on the “mmm” sound before saying “mmm-it is high, mmm-it is far. …”[36]

Personal life

Sterling is a resident of Edgewater, New Jersey.[37] He had previously resided in Teaneck, New Jersey.[38] He was divorced in 2008 after 12 years of marriage to wife, Jennifer[6] and is the father of four, including a set of triplets, born in 2000.[5] In January 2015, fire destroyed the Avalon at Edgewater complex building. Sterling was one of hundreds of displaced residents.[39][40]


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