Yankees broadcasting great John Sterling shares why he suddenly retired, what’s next

NEW YORK — Before John Sterling went out to the Yankee Stadium playing field on his big day, he took the same seat in the media room that Yankees manager Aaron Boone uses during pre-game and post-game interviews.

Fittingly, the now retired voice of the Yankees for 36 years was introduced by Suzyn Waldman, his booth partner for the last two decades.

The next 22 minutes were priceless entertainment, and they began with Sterling playfully making fun of Boone for always sticking up for his players during slumps.

“Is this where Boonie says, ‘I think he’s getting close?’” Sterling said.

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Everyone in the packed media room burst out laughing.

It was non-stop vintage Sterling in the Q & A, plenty of entertaining stories.

Sterling also revealed why he suddenly retired last Monday after working the Yankees’ season-opening road games and their first three home games.

“I did it all wrong,” Sterling said. “I should have quit on March 1 or March 15, but I decided I do one exhibition game, which is useless, as you all know. And then we went on that long trip. We went to Houston and Arizona. And, boy, that was it. I didn’t want to work every day.

“If you work 64 years, and on your next birthday, you’re going to be 86, I think it’s time.”

Sterling said his aging body just didn’t allow him to continue.

“Working with Suzyn is a lark, but I just don’t have the strength and stamina,” he said. “My first day on the air was really big. Oh, was that big to finally get a job and be able to support myself! My first day on the air was Feb. 1, 1960. That’s how long I’ve been on the air. So 64 years.

“And you know what? I’m really tired. So I’m looking forward to not being on the air.”

This will be a big change for Sterling, who called 5,631 Yankees games since joining their broadcast booth in 1989, including 5,060 in a row from September 1989 to July 2019.

“I’m not going to miss coming to the ballpark,” Sterling said. “I’m going to love watching and listening. I really am. I really know what I’m going to do and I’m going to enjoy it.”

Sterling plans on being a homebody in his Bergen County, NJ home.

“I have the best apartment I’ve ever had across the river in Edgewater,” Sterling said. “I have a beautiful apartment that overlooks the Hudson. I love living there. And I had a fella from Sony put in five screens, including two in my bedroom. Oh, I’m a very lazy person!”

Sterling now has a sixth. One of his gifts from the Yankees during Saturday’s pre-game ceremony was an 83-inch LG flat screen television.

Sterling says he’ll still be following the Yankees closely while watching a lot of sports on TV.

“You know what I’m going to do being the hopeless person I am,” Sterling said. “I’m going to watch and listen to all the Yankees games, all the Mets games, all the games on Turner and ESPN and on MLB (Network). At the same time, the basketball and hockey playoffs are beginning. I have to watch those. I’m a very busy person.”

Sterling says that he’s had a great life.

How does he want to be remembered?

That led to Sterling telling a story about another broadcasting great.

“Bob Uecker, they asked him one of those random questions,” Sterling said. “The question to Uecker was, ‘What would you like people to say about you in 100 years?’ And Uecker said that he’s still working.”

Sterling wants Yankees fans to remember how durable he was.

“Never missing a game,’ he said. “I was working and I would do the next game and do the next game. Luckily, I had good health and good stamina. So they can remember me anyway. I hope the people who like it who will remember that they liked it.”

Yankees fans loved his signature home run calls, which began in the 1990s after he celebrated Bernie Williams going deep by calling out, “Burn baby burn!”

“It kind of mushroomed from there,” Sterling said. “But if it never was intended for every player because, frankly, I’m not smart enough to do something for every player. But I did the best I could and it’s amazing what started out became so big. I’m very, very fortunate.”

Two of his favorites were his home run calls for Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

“I did say, ‘A-bomb from A-Rod,’ and I did say, ‘Robbie Cano, don’t you know,’” Sterling said. “I think those are pretty good.”

Yankees fans let Sterling know how they felt about him during his ceremony. They cheered like Aaron Judge hit a homer and they chanted his name.

Sterling responded with a big wave and a smile, then he thanked them during his short on-field speech.

“I’ve been here as a Yankee for 36 years, and in that time person after person, group after group have come to me with kindness, respect and love,” Sterling said. “How lucky can lucky you be to able to celebrate what you do for a living?

“You the fans have been phenomenal to me over the past 36 years, so from the bottom of my heart thank you very much and God bless you all.”

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Randy Miller may be reached at rmiller@njadvancemedia.com.

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