Yankees radio voice John Sterling reflects on legendary career

After 64 years in the broadcast booth covering 5,420 regular season Yankees games and 211 postseason Yankees games, radio voice John Sterling announced his retirement on April 15.

The 85-year-old was honored Saturday at Yankee Stadium when the team took on the Tampa Bay Rays, and spoke to media prior to the game to reflect on his legendary career. Sterling joked with reporters while saying he's "really tired" and is excited for the next chapter of his life.

"I can't believe this has happened to me, I retired because I just can't do it. I can do the games, the games are easy. And working with Suzyn [Waldman] is a lark. But I just don't have the strength and stamina," Sterling said.

"And I figured the best way to begin this before your questions, my first day on the air, really big. Woah was that big, to finally get a job and be able to support myself. My first day on the air was February 1, 1960. Now, since no one in this room was born then, that's how long I've been on the air. That's 64 years. And you know what, I'm really tired. I'm looking forward to not being on the air, which will start tomorrow."

Sterling was asked how he wants to be remembered by fans, and said he simply hopes those who listened to him and enjoyed his calls will remember that they liked hearing his voice.

"The best was Bob Uecker, you know they ask him one of those frim-fram questions, and 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 said.

"I don't know, all about all this 'never missing a game' and 'making all the games,' you know, my family is all here. They had to be supported, somebody had to send them to college," he added while laughing and making a fist toward them. "I was working and I would do the next game and the next game. Luckily, I had good health and good stamina. They can remember me any way they'd want. I hope people who liked it will remember they liked it."

Over his career, Sterling made a mark with his famous, personalized calls for players after they hit a home run. Even shortstop Anthony Volpe noted he has countless memories of Sterling's calls while listening to games in the car and that Sterling and Waldman were the only people he took pictures with on the day he signed. Naturally, Sterling was asked how he came up with the idea of giving every player their HR call and said he was just doing the best he could.

"It wasn't meant that way, I just happened to do something for Bernie Williams," Sterling said. "He hit a home run and I said, 'Burn baby burn,' and it kind of mushroomed from there. It never was intended to do every player because, frankly, I'm not smart enough to do something for every player. I did the best I could. It's amazing, what started out became so big. I'm very, very fortunate, that's all."

When asked what his favorite home run call was, he pointed to two known to every Yankee fan.

"Oh I don't know, that's tough. I did say, 'A-bomb from A-Rod,' when he [Alex Rodriguez] hit a home run. And I did say, 'Robbie Cano, don't ya know?' And I think those are pretty good."

Sterling then discussed the timing of his decision to retire and said he wished he had done it earlier this year before the season started.

"I should've quit on March 1 or March 15," Sterling said. "But I decided I'd do one exhibition game, which is useless, as you well know. And then we went on that long trip, we went to Houston and Arizona. And boy, I knew that was it. I knew I didn't want to work every day. And I told you how long I've been working. If you work 64 years and on you're next birthday you'll be 86, I think it's time."

As for what's next in his life, Sterling said he plans to continue listening to and watching lots of baseball, along with the NBA and NHL playoffs kicking into gear. He even told reporters that he had five TVs installed in his bedroom and doesn't plan on leaving them.

"I'm going to love watching and listening," Sterling said. "I really know what I'm going to do and I'm going to enjoy it."

Sterling expressed his gratitude to everyone who has reached out to him and congratulated him on a memorable career, including former Yankees manager Joe Torre. He also made it clear that one of his favorite memories was the 1996 season, calling it "the most exciting year" of his radio career.

To round out the news conference, Sterling gave his version of advice to the broadcasters who would take over for him on the radio.

"Be yourself," Sterling said. "Harry Caray told me some years ago, he said, 'All the guys are great, we just have different styles.' And no one has a more different style than I have. I would say to Emmanuel [Berbari] and to Justin [Shackil], they're both terrific young broadcasters, broadcast and you'll find your own way, you'll find your style. If that's advice, that's my advice."