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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    John Sterling retires from Yankees broadcast booth at age 85 a few weeks into 36th season

    In this Sept. 25, 2009, file photo, New York Yankees broadcaster John Sterling sits in his booth before a game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

    New York — John Sterling, the hyperexcitable New York Yankees broadcaster known for decades of indelible, personalized home run calls, announced his immediate retirement Monday at age 85.

    Sterling made the unexpected decision a few weeks into his 36th season as the Yankees' radio play-by-play voice. He had cut back his schedule in recent years and was not with the team for its current trip to Cleveland and Toronto.

    He called 5,420 regular-season games, the last against the Blue Jays on April 7, plus 211 postseason games. Sterling broadcast 5,060 consecutive games from September 1989 through July 2019 after starting with the Yankees as a pregame host.

    Sterling will be honored in a ceremony before Saturday's game in the Bronx against Tampa Bay.

    "I have been able to do what I wanted, broadcasting for 64 years," Sterling said in a statement. "As a little boy growing up in New York as a Yankees fan, I was able to broadcast the Yankees for 36 years. It's all to my benefit, and I leave very, very happy. I look forward to seeing everyone again on Saturday."

    As the team evolved into its latest dynasty, winning four World Series titles from 1996 through 2000, a Sterling moniker for a player's home run became as treasured a part of a Yankees identity as an initial set of pinstripes and a culminating championship ring.

    From "Bernie goes boom! Bern, baby, Bern!" for Bernie Williams, to "It's a Jeter jolt!" for Derek to "It's an A-bomb from A-Rod!" for Alex Rodriguez, "The Giambino!" for Jason Giambi and "A thrilla from Godzilla!" for Hideki Matsui, Sterling created a personal stamp that resonated through the clubhouse all the way to the bleachers.

    For the latest group of Yankees, "It's a Judge-ian blast!" became a familiar cry for Aaron, joined by "Nobody beats the Rizz!" for Anthony Rizzo and "David John makes long gone!" for DJ LeMahieu.

    He could be obscure in recent years, using "Giancarlo, non si può de stoparlo! (Italian for "You can't stop it!) for Stanton and "A spettacolo oggi!" for Anthony Volpe (Italian for "At the show today!). He added "He's Juan-der-ful, marvelous" for Juan Soto this year, singing to the melody of George Gershwin's "'S Wonderful."

    But through it all, fans pined to hear him follow final outs with "Thuuuuuuuh Yankees win!" with an elongated "the."

    "Day in and day out, season after season, and city after city, John Sterling used his seat in the broadcast booth to bring Yankees fans the heartbeat of the game, employing an orotund voice and colorful personality that were distinctly, unmistakably his own," the team said in a statement. "John informed and entertained, and he exemplified what it means to be a New Yorker with an unapologetic and boisterous style that exuded his passion for baseball, broadcasting and the New York Yankees."

    Sterling partnered with Jay Johnstone (1989-90), Joe Angel (1991), Michael Kay (1992-2001), Charley Steiner (2002-04) and Suzyn Waldman (since 2005). Sterling and Waldman were inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2016.

    A native New Yorker, Sterling broadcast the NBA's Washington Bullets and Morgan State football in his early years and gained notoriety for shrieking "Islanders goal! Islanders goal!" while announcing the hockey team's games from 1975-78 along with those of the NBA's Nets from 1975-80. Sterling's first connection with the Yankees was during pregame shows while he worked on a WMCA radio talk show from 1971-78.

    He moved to Atlanta and worked for the Braves from 1982-87 and Hawks from 1981-89 before switching to the Yankees.

    "I grew up listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. I was the kid falling asleep, like many of you, to the radio," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Monday. "I have a romantic relationship with baseball on the radio. I'm bummed out about it, sad about it, but certainly just want him to be in a good spot and healthy moving forward."

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