Sterling reflects on streak in Yankees' booth

Broadcaster talks with Kay about incredible 29-year run on 'CenterStage'

August 30th, 2017
"I find it amazing, but I don't think about it. I don't think, 'Oh boy, I'm adding another one,'" John Sterling said. (E.H. Wallop/YES Network)

NEW YORK -- There is no marker at Yankee Stadium to denote John Sterling's continuation of one of the most remarkable streaks in baseball the way that the Orioles hung banners that celebrated Cal Ripken Jr.'s pursuit of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played mark. Perhaps there should be.

From his perch in the Yankees' radio booth, Sterling has now called 4,764 official games without missing a single one, including 167 in the postseason. The "Voice of the Yankees" reflected on that incredible 29-year run on Tuesday while being interviewed by former broadcast partner Michael Kay for the YES Network's "CenterStage."

"I'm very happy that I've had this unusual health," Sterling said on the episode, which will premiere Sept. 13. "My dad used to knock on wood all the time. This all began, without my thinking about it or trying, in 1981. I did a Hawks game, the first game I did, and I have not missed a game in 37 seasons. There were five years in Atlanta where I was doing the Hawks and Braves, and I was doing 220 games a year.

"I find it amazing, but I don't think about it. I don't think, 'Oh boy, I'm adding another one.'"

The closest comparable streak was compiled by the late Tom Cheek, who worked 4,306 consecutive regular-season Blue Jays games (plus 41 in the postseason) from April 7, 1977, through June 3, 2004. Cheek's accomplishment is acknowledged in Rogers Centre's "Level of Excellence," where the number 4,306 has been affixed in place of a uniform number.

Sterling was prepared to take a personal day to attend his oldest daughter's high school graduation last June, but the ceremony fortunately took place on a Yankees off-day.

"I don't take anything for granted," Sterling said. "I do understand how lucky I am that I can do something that I love. You can say, 'Well, why have you not missed a game?' Because I really get up for the games. I really like the games."

Having witnessed every Yankees inning since Steve Sax and Alvaro Espinoza were the double-play combination, Sterling said that he is pleased that the timber in his voice has remained true. He considers it a compliment when his personalized home run calls or a catchphrase like "Theeeeeee Yankees win!" are volleyed back to him.

Baseball's grueling 162-game schedule is no picnic, and Sterling said that he has called games through numerous illnesses -- even a vicious bout with food poisoning in the second game of a 2006 day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park, which just happened to conclude with the longest nine-inning game ever played.

"Four hours and 45 minutes," Sterling said. "And I kept running to the other room every half-inning. That was a terrible night."

Sterling is believed to be in his late 70s and has no desire to hang up his microphone anytime soon. He said that he is inspired by luminaries who continue to make their marks in the world of entertainment, naming Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner as examples.

"The first thing I have to do is, I have to get four kids through college," Sterling said. "After that, we'll see. After they're all through, we'll see. I can't imagine retiring. At this point, I figure I'll collapse in the booth someday."