Suzyn Waldman reflects on John Sterling’s retirement: ‘Nothing will ever be the same’

TORONTO – Standing outside the Yankees’ clubhouse on Monday afternoon, Suzyn Waldman politely declined to comment when approached by a few writers.

Reports of John Sterling’s retirement, linked to health concerns, had begun to circulate, but his radio partner of two decades didn’t want to address the matter until someone made it official. About 30 minutes later, the Yankees did exactly that, announcing that the 85-year-old Sterling will step away from the microphone, effective immediately.

“I am a very blessed human being,” Sterling, an Upper East Side native, said in a press release. “I have been able to do what I wanted, broadcasting for 64 years. 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.”

A little while after that statement came out, Waldman agreed to reflect on Sterling’s retirement from WFAN’s booth at Rogers Centre.

“To see it on paper is pretty final,” she said before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays. “I’ve known for quite a while, but it’s pretty final to see it on paper. That gets me emotional. I said to people before: nothing will ever be the same. It can’t be. Life goes on and we all go on, but nothing will be the same.”

Waldman, 77, took her time and collected he thoughts as she spent a few minutes answering questions about Sterling, who will hold a press conference this Saturday at Yankee Stadium. While her tone conveyed some sadness, she did not cry or tear up.

Rather, she spoke with reverence and appreciation for a man she has called her friend for years.

“We understood each other,” Waldman said. “We’ve been friends since 1987 when I was doing updates on WFAN and he came in and did a talk show. He stood up for four hours with his hand in his ear, and I said this is a really interesting human being. He just knew about everything. He could talk about anything. He has a photographic memory.

“He just knows things, and he knows more than everybody thinks he does.”

Sterling may be best known for his unique home run calls, which sometimes left fans and even players scratching their heads. But Waldman praised his baseball acumen while also mentioning his love for theater, reading and fine dining.

“Everything about him is unique,” she said. “He’s one of a kind. You can’t even describe his personality because that would diminish it.”

When asked what kind of legacy Sterling leaves behind, Waldman described his passion for the Yankees and what he’s meant to their fans.

She hopes that the Bronx faithful reciprocates the affection that Sterling has always shown before and during Saturday’s game against the Rays.

“There will never be another one,” Waldman said. “There’ll never be another person like that. To have that kind of love for a team and that kind of love for his fanbase — I hope Saturday that everybody shows him that because there’s three generations who know nothing about Yankee baseball except for John Sterling. And he has wanted to do this since he was a very little boy, and that’s a really long time ago. I hope people understand that, that he lived a dream that none of us really get to do.”

Yankees baseball without Sterling will be different, more so for Waldman than anyone else.

Often referred to as the grandma and grandpa of Yankees baseball, the two will be forever connected, even as the pioneering Waldman adjusts to new partners in the booth. But she knows there are things Sterling wants to do besides calling baseball games.

While she nor the Yankees spoke on Sterling’s health, Waldman noted that he’s reached “a certain age, and he deserves to enjoy the rest of his life.” Travel has gotten tougher on Sterling, and Waldman mentioned that he has a daughter that he wants to walk down the aisle in a year. He has other children who recently graduated college.

“I don’t want him to be tired,” Waldman said. “I want him to be able to see his kids get married and have kids. It’s very important.”

With all that in mind, Waldman is glad that Sterling is leaving on his own terms.

“That’s the worst thing that you can ever have happen to you, I think, is somebody telling you, ‘That’s enough. You can’t do it anymore,’” she said. “I think this is the greatest way you can go out, to make the decision on your own. Be really clear and be happy about it.

“He knows what he’s done in this industry. And he knows that most people just love him because there will never be another.”