John Sterling opens up to Post about Yankees career, retirement plans, if he’ll call one more game

Legendary Yankees broadcaster John Sterling, 85, who announced his retirement Monday, still had plenty to say in his Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Tell me what you remember when you first met Suzyn Waldman.

A: Oh that’s easy. John Shannon was the general manager of FAN and I had worked for him at that network that went down, too bad I was having a great time there, Enterprise. So, John Shannon said to me, “During the break, why don’t you come up and do a show?” The afternoon guy had a heart attack, he wasn’t working. So, I flew up, they put me in a great hotel, and I did let’s say two or three shows that week. I’m doing a talk show, you do a talk show asleep. And I liked to work standing up then during a talk show. Now I wouldn’t. And who was my update gal? Suzyn Waldman. And this lovely, pretty gal did my updates, and we really became friendly. And then, during the basketball season, I can recall being up here to do a Hawks game, and Suzyn was doing postgame on the Knicks for FAN, and I heard her, and then when we came in the Garden I saw her. We’ve been friends ever since. We’ve been friends since 1987.

Q: What makes Suzyn Waldman, Suzyn Waldman?

A: She had her own motor. And that motor never stops. And she is a fabulous reporter. She wants the story, and she’ll do anything to get the story, and that’s what she does on the air. That’s why we work so great together.

6 Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling in the radio booth at the start of the game with broadcast partner Suzyn Waldman in 2017. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: How about the funniest moments in the booth?

A: I don’t have a real phone, or a computer. One day we were kidding on the square, and I said to her, “I can never tell you anything. It drives me crazy! I can’t tell you anything. You know a day ahead of anything I’m gonna tell you.” And she said, “John. I talk to everyone. You don’t talk to anyone (chuckle).” The relationship between Suzyn and myself is not gonna die because I’m not doing Yankee games. No, we’re gonna be buddies forever.

Q: What do you think it’s going to be like for you listening to Suzyn?

A: Well I’m gonna love it. Here’s my plan — I plan to listen and watch 162 Yankee games, 162 Mets games, all the games on Turner and ESPN, and all the games on MLB [Network]. You know that I’m also [a] basketball, hockey, football fan. Basketball and hockey are just starting their playoffs. I can’t wait to relax, sit back and watch and listen to the games.

Q: The ’96 World Series when Charlie Hayes caught the foul ball for the last out?

A: I was like a banshee, yelling: “Ballgame over! World Series over! The Yankees win. Theeeee Yankees win!” The ’96 year was our favorite year. First of all, a buddy of mine [Joe Torre] became manager, and that helped me greatly. Not that I didn’t like Buck [Showalter], I did very much and we got along very well, but Joe was a friend of mine from the Atlanta days. The team wasn’t supposed to go anywhere, and they won all kinds of games. And every important thing they did right, All the playoff games were great. They had to come from behind in about every playoff win against Texas, Baltimore and Atlanta. It was a colossal, classic Series. Here’s a stat I want to give you: the next best three teams in baseball that year were the Orioles, the Indians and of course the Braves. They were 18-0 in the home ballparks of the three next best teams in baseball.

Q: The ’98 Yankees?

A: After that tough trip out west, and Mariano [Rivera] was on the DL, they came home, and they started winning. And in those days, Michael [Kay] and I had like a two- or three-minute bulls–t at the beginning of the pregame. And the one thing I remember was one day I looked at him, I said, “Michael, are they gonna win every day?” And then we laughed about it. It was amazing. They just kept winning.

Q: The 2000 World Series, after the Yankees beat Oakland in 5 and then Seattle?

A: And what I remember is that the stands were going nuts during the Seattle series, and only in New York would they come up with this — and you know what they came up with? “Oak-land’s bet-ter … bop bop bop bop bop … Oak-land’s bet-ter (laugh).”

Q: How about the Subway Series?

A: It was thrilling. The Yankees were very fortunate to win the first game, the Mets ran themselves out of a win. When the Yankees lost Game 3, they had won 14 straight World Series games. That’s pretty good, right?

6 John Sterling outside Yankees Stadium in 2018. Corey Sipkin

Q: What do you recall about the Piazza-Clemens incident?

A: Was he throwing a broken bat at him? He said he was just throwing it away. You know, a lot of excitement. Not very little, but a lot of excitement.

Q: The 2009 World Series?

A: A-Rod got a base hit in Game 5 or 4 to put the Yankees up ahead, and it was two outs in the inning and A-Rod called it “the biggest base hit of my career.” A line drive one hop off the wall double down the left-field line. And then I remember mostly how it ended in New York in Game 6, and the hero was — I hate to say this — no, I don’t hate to say it at all (chuckle). But Hideki Matsui might have been my favorite Yankee. He was such a gentleman, and such a great player. And my line — which I’ve used only about a billion times — it’s too bad Matsui isn’t American. Because he is the All-American Boy (chuckle).

Q: Can this Yankee team win a championship?

A: They have a chance. Your team that you finish with is not the team you have now. You know Brian Cashman, he’ll try to make an improvement here or there. I wish I could say to you, “Absolutely they’ll win.” What bulls–t. How does anyone know who’s gonna win any game? But they have a chance.

Q: Juan Soto?

A: Fabulous. But I thought he was fabulous way before.

Q: Aaron Judge and Soto?

A: Wait til the summer goes on. Wait til it gets hot, wait til the pitchers start getting tired. So much goes on. Judge and Soto are gonna be great, [Anthony] Volpe has just totally changed himself, he’s a solid, terrific player.

Q: The Red Sox coming back from that 0-3 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS in Game 7?

A: I told my boothmates, Charley Steiner and Brian Fergenson, the Yanks are gonna lose the series. “They’ve run out of pitching. They have no pitching left.” You know what happened? They ran out of pitching and they lost the series.

Q: When did you tell them that?

A: Right after Game 5 in Boston.

Q: So you were not shocked when the Red Sox made that kind of history?

A: No, no. I broadcast (laugh) over 50 years of hockey, basketball, baseball and football. I’m not surprised at any game.

Q: Luis Gonzalez’ Game 7 walk-off bloop single off Mariano Rivera to win the 2001 World Series in Arizona?

A: I wasn’t bummed by it. They had gotten so close to yet another world championship, and they just had a little bit of bad luck.

Q: Was there one Yankee loss that you were bummed out by?

A: I can’t recall. One thing. One thing. I started in 1989, I didn’t miss a game til mid-July 2019. That’s a lot of games. How can you remember?

6 Michael Kay and John Sterling at Yankees Stadium in 2022 Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Q: Joba Chamberlain and the midges in Cleveland.

A: Oh my God. Joe should have pulled his team off the field. They would never have touched Chamberlain, the Yankees would have won that game.

Q: Joe Torre leaving the team to battle cancer?

A: Don Zimmer is the acting manager, and I’m very unmechanical. FAN handed me some digital recorder, so I had to tape the manager’s show with Zim, who I loved dearly. I screwed it up two out of three times, so now we’re in the second city, and before I turned it on, I said to Zim, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing,” and the first two out of three shows didn’t get on the air. And Zimmer said to me, “John, that’s 1-for-3, that’s .333, great in any league!” That’s Don Zimmer.

Q: What struck you when you learned about Joe’s cancer?

A: Well I knew prostate cancer could be corrected. I’m a very optimistic person. I look on the optimistic side of everything. And the end of the story is great. Joe Torre comes back — you know where he comes back? In Boston. And he walked out of the dugout … and he got a standing ovation.

Q: What do you recall thinking when Pedro Martinez shoved Zimmer to the ground?

A: Oh I thought it was awful. That was Zimmer, a tough old guy trying to run out there and help his team. Nothing good comes of any other these things, so …

Q: One play that typified Derek Jeter?

A: Well I don’t think you have to look any further than his first game. He makes the phenomenal over-the-shoulder running catch, and he’s not a home-run hitter, and he hit a home run up in those seats over that high wall in Cleveland. He was the Yankee captain without portfolio. Every time someone did something good, the first one out of the dugout to greet him was Jeter. I called every game of Jeter’s career, and I called every pitch of Mariano’s career. A writer, Bryan Hoch, went to Jeter in Jeter’s final year, entering September, this is gonna be it, and Hoch said to him, “You know John Sterling has called every game you’ve played.” And Jeter said, “Boy, he must be tired of seeing me play.”

6 John Sterling in the Yankees radio booth in 2018. Corey Sipkin

Q: Do you remember the very first game you watched at Yankee Stadium?

A: Yeah, it was a doubleheader probably on one of the holidays around ’46 or ’47. And the funny thing is I had a buddy in school, a guy named — it’s amazing I can remember this — a buddy named Laddie Gould. We’re chatting, and I had said, “I’m going to the game, my dad’s taking me to the game Sunday.” And he said, “Oh great, I’m gonna be there, too!” “Oh great,” I said, “I’ll see you (laugh).” You know there were 70,000 people … anyway, my mom and dad took me to the game, and my dad had to leave us. Before we went in he had to go across the street to the garage and scalp tickets (laugh). I remember the doubleheader, all my dad remembered was my saying: “Ice cream. Peanuts.” But from then on I knew the way, I knew how to do it and I did it.

Q: Who were your favorite Yankees growing up?

A: When you’re a little boy, you’re a fan, you love ’em all (chuckle). I guess my first favorite, I loved his name — Charlie “King Kong” Keller. And then, the usual: Yogi, Whitey, Mickey and all that. I’m left-handed. As a left-hand hitter — let me change that, I got to bat left-handed, I didn’t hit. So I always deferred to the lefty hitters ’cause I was a lefty hitter. So if you said to me, “Well did you like Gene Woodling?” Yes. “Did you like Joe Collins?” Yes.

Q: What kind of guy was Yogi?

A: What a good guy! Treated me like an equal running into Yogi for all those years. I did the Yankeeography and at the end of it, they have his St. Louis buddy Joe Garagiola. And they asked him, “Can you tell us what you think about Yogi?” And he said, “I can describe Yogi in one word — underrated.”

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Q: What was it like watching Mickey Mantle play?

A: When you’re a little boy and a Yankee fan, in those days, it’s almost like you expect. … So DiMaggio leaves, Mantle comes in. Ruth left, DiMaggio came on. I loved Mickey.

Q: What do you recall about the Summer of ’61 with Mantle and Maris?

A: One of my favorite summers. I was working as a disc jockey in Patchogue, and the transmitter shack was located off Route 12, Patchogue to Bedford Road. That’s the road that Marcus Stroman grew up on. I told him, I said, “We’re homies.” I had met a guy. … He and his wife and family became my best friends, the Fahertys. We were both young announcers at this station, and he went to sales, and obviously I stayed in programming. It was just marvelous, the home run duel between Roger and Mickey. And you know the Yankees didn’t wrap the pennant up, they didn’t wrap it up til somewhere like the beginning of September. They had a four-game series with the second-place team the Tigers, and they beat ’em in all four games, and they went on to the World Series. But I remember the year very well, I loved it. Loved it.

Q: Your favorite Sinatra song?

A: I love ’em all, but the one that people would not know that is a great Sinatra song is “(I Brought You) Violets For Your Furs.”

Q: Favorite book?

A: I’ve read every one of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct. He died of cancer. I wish he was here.

Q: Your four children (Abigail and the triplets)?

A: Abigail is engaged to be married, she’s living in Baltimore with a terrific young man and he’s going to Maryland Law. Bradford outside of the fact he’s much brighter, and much better looking, he’s me. He’s gonna be a huge success in the financial world. Derek is the nicest kid, good-looking, big kid and if you said to me, “What is he like?” I’ll tell you what he’s like, he’s like Ed Coleman (laugh), Easy Ed, that kind of person. And Veronica, the little girl, got the greatest marks of any of the kids, she couldn’t be brighter, she couldn’t be nicer, lovely little blonde. When they were little, little kids, you know, sibling rivals, I told them, “You’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna love each other” — “No no daddy, no.” And now they’ve grown up, and they love each other. And everyone does something for the other. We have the tightest, lovingest, closest-knit family, and it keeps spreading. [Ex-wife] Jennifer’s married to a guy named Neil, who is a terrific guy, we get along splendidly, and his family has adopted my family.

6 John Sterling’s ex-wife Jennifer with their set of triplets ( L-R ) Derek in Bassinette, Bradford and Veronica in her arms in 2000. NEW YORK POST

Q: Favorite moments in the booth?

A: Well, ’96 World Series ending.

Q: That would be your one favorite moment?

A: I don’t look back and think, “Ohh, there was the moment,” I just go on. And I go on, obviously. I can’t be stopped. I mean, it’s 64 straight years on the air. They’re all good moments, but that one I recall because they won the world championship.

Q: Your Jason Giambi home run call on WCBS radio was voted the best baseball call of the year in a poll conducted by MLB.com. What was so special about that call?

A: I didn’t think anything. It was a home run by Jason Giambi, and I recognized it right away and “high, far and gone, the Giambino.” It was a wonderful gift that they gave to me. How do you say one call over another? Impossible.

Q: What do you think your best call ever was?

A: I don’t think there is such a thing. I think the best call is heard by someone who likes it, and you could use that same call, and ask someone who dislikes me, and they wouldn’t like it. So I think it depends on who’s listening. Period.

Q: Are you going to miss making your famous home run calls?

A: No. I did that for a living. No … I’ll probably do ‘em on my own.

Q: Is your first home run call — “Bernie goes boom! Bern, baby, Bern!” — the one you’re most proud of?

A: Bernie loved it.

Q: Any others you’re particularly fond of?

A: Well I made this up en route — an A-Bomb for A-Rod … Robbie Cano Don’t Ya Know. I never had a home run call for Austin Romine, and one day on an afternoon in Detroit, he hits a home run. As he’s rounding first, between first and second, something hit me. And I said: “Romie. my homie!” And on the plane out of there, he came to the back of the plane and said, “I love it.”

Q: What’s it going to be like for you making your last drive to Yankee Stadium, and then leaving Yankee Stadium on Saturday?

A: Well going there, I’m gonna think, “Boy, I hope I don’t screw up on the field.” And going home, there’ll be a tremendous feeling of … ahhh, I’ve done it. And starting on Sunday, I won’t have to go anywhere anytime that I don’t want to. I don’t want to tell you what I’m gonna say because I ad-lib it. But basically, what I’m saying is something that you probably would say. Here I was, this little boy, this little street urchin Yankee fan rooting for the Yankees and taking the IRT up to the Stadium, and then, slightly more than mid-career, having the Yankee job fall in my lap! And then look how it turned out. Oh my God, can you be luckier than I am? I have to throw all my emotions away and handle my little speech and go from there.

Q: How about regrets? Any regrets?

A: (Laugh) This sounds like a song, right? When I go on the air … first of all, I live life by the seat of my pants, and I broadcast by the seat of my pants. So I don’t have any regrets that I didn’t do this or get this in or whatever. I did the best I could.

6 Yankee manager Joe Torre talking to Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling on the field before at Subway Series game in 2007. Charles Wenzelberg

Q: What are you most proud of about your legendary career?

A: When I was a little boy — let’s say 10, I’m just using that as an age, how would I know? — I wanted to be on the air. I heard a broadcast and I wanted to be on the air. This is pre-puberty. By the time I got to be an adolescent, there was no question in my mind, that was what I was gonna do, I was gonna go on the air. And it was a great thing for me because I didn’t have to worry about school, and I was a terrible student. I knew what I was going to do. And as it turned out, also I had the talent to do it, I had the voice to do it, and it takes a while to get a job. I got a job way upstate New York, and what I’m proudest of, I did it for 64 years! I’m a very lucky individual. And as you know, it’s a very, very tough, competitive business.

Q: From the Yankees press release: “He was a pillar for Yankees fans who relied on the comfort and familiarity of his voice to be the soundtrack of their spring, summer and fall.”

A: I’m very honored. You know this — that’s what radio baseball does. … I’m very proud that people have listened to me for so darn long (laugh), and apparently have enjoyed it. That’s a great feeling.

Q: What do you hope your legacy is?

A: I want people to think he was a good broadcaster and a good guy.

Q: Would you do one last broadcast?

A: No, after the ceremonies on Saturday, I am gonna go upstairs, I’ll go on with Suzyn in effect to say goodbye to the audience. I don’t want to keep coming back and doing this game or that game. … It’s over. Let’s pack it up, and send it away.

Q: But Yogi said It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over.

A: Well, obviously this is over (laugh).

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