What a trouper! Sterling back in booth after being hit by foul

June 11th, 2023

NEW YORK -- One night after being struck by a foul ball, John Sterling was back behind the Yankees’ radio microphone on Sunday evening, with a bandage covering his left eyebrow but otherwise seemingly no worse for wear.

Sterling said that he has been touched by the outpouring of support and well-wishes from the Major League Baseball community, saying that the impact of the baseball looked (and sounded) worse than it was. Sterling even bumped into Aaron Judge in the hours before Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, telling the Yankees captain: “I’m not going on the IL.”

“It’s really odd,” Sterling said. “We’re a long way from home plate. You would think the ball would hit me and knock my head off, but it didn’t. It wasn’t very bad at all.”

Sterling, 84, was calling the action as Yankees reliever Clay Holmes faced Boston's Justin Turner. Holmes threw a 3-2 slider that Turner fouled back toward the broadcast area.

“Now, the 3-2,” Sterling said on the air. “Swung on, a pop foul back here.”

That’s when things got wild. According to a video provided by WFAN and posted by the Yankees, the baseball enters the booth on a bounce at a high rate of speed, striking Sterling above the left eye.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” Sterling said, reflexively adjusting his eyeglasses. “It really hit me. I didn’t know it was coming back that far.”

Like a pro, Sterling didn’t miss a beat, angling his chair back toward the microphone. Turner fouled off the next pitch, then hit a grounder to third baseman Josh Donaldson, sealing the Yankees’ 3-1 victory. Sterling performed his usual catchphrase with bravado: “Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeee Yankees win!”

“It did not hurt me. That’s the odd thing,” Sterling said. “I just said, ‘Fouled back,’ and I took my eye off it. I should have caught it or knocked it down.”

Someone brought Sterling a bottle of cold water to press against his eyebrow, which had a few specks of blood.

As broadcaster Suzyn Waldman interviewed Kyle Higashioka on the field, the Bombers catcher inquired about Sterling’s health; Sterling told Waldman that he was OK, and it was “just a glancing blow.”

Sterling has served as the Yankees’ radio voice since 1989, enjoying an ironman streak of 5,060 consecutive games broadcasted that concluded in July 2019. Sterling missed approximately three weeks this season due to an unspecified illness and to attend the graduations of his children.

He said that he was struck by a foul ball once before -- in 1991, at Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium.

“The broadcast booth was right over the plate,” Sterling said. “A left-handed-hitting catcher named Eddie Taubensee hit a foul ball that just about parted my hair. A few years later, I saw him, and he was with another team in the bowels of Yankee Stadium. I told him the story and he said, ‘John, that was the best ball I hit all year.’”