After 5,631 Yankees Games, John Sterling Calls His Own Walk-Off

John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman had that special sort of radio relationship where they would often finish each other’s sentences, or more precisely, each other’s lyrics. They might have been announcing Yankees games, but that would not prevent them from dipping into musical theater, a passion for both of them.

“It’s something sort of grandish,” Sterling might say on the air, using one of his signature phrases to describe a great play by the former outfielder Curtis Granderson, or perhaps it was a reference a grand slam someone had hit.

Right on cue, without any rehearsal other than decades as friends and colleagues, Waldman would add, “Sweeps my soul when thou art near,” reciting the next line of the song from “Finian’s Rainbow.”

Sterling and Waldman formed one of the more unusual relationships in sports broadcasting history, but it ended abruptly on Monday when Sterling retired, effective immediately. “I just don’t want to do any more work,” he said Monday on WFAN. “I’ve worked for 64 years, and in July I’ll be 86, so let’s face it, my time has come.”

He had announced 5,420 regular season and 211 postseason Yankees games on radio since 1989. With his silky baritone, singsong inflections and signature home-run call — “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” — Sterling became a fixture on the airwaves, bringing his earnest and schticky boosterism to generations of Yankee fans.

“He is an original, and there will never be another like him,” Waldman said on Tuesday.

Sterling’s last 20 years were spent alongside Waldman, whom he met in 1987 at WFAN. They became fast friends, as much for their love of sports as Broadway. When the former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner suggested hiring Waldman as the first woman to do color commentating on regular a baseball broadcasts, Sterling endorsed the pioneering move.

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