Sterling back in booth after 5,060-game streak

July 12th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Including the postseason, Derek Jeter played in 2,905 games over the two-decade span of a career that promises to place the former Yankees captain in Cooperstown next summer. John Sterling was behind the microphone for every inning, every at-bat, every pitch.

During Jeter's final week as an active player in 2014, he was approached with the data on Sterling's amazing streak, which ended last week after 5,060 consecutive Yankees games on the radio. Jeter wondered aloud if anyone, other than his father, had seen more of him on the diamond.

"He's never missed a day?" Jeter said then. "Wow. That's pretty good. He's probably tired of seeing me, too."

To the contrary, a rested Sterling is ready to go as the Yankees resume play. Following a four-day respite that rolled into the All-Star break, the 81-year-old returned to the broadcast booth on Friday evening for the Bombers' series opener against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, and said he had no regrets about snapping his remarkable string of games called.

"It was about time," Sterling said. "I was really under the weather; I wasn't feeling well. Mark Chernoff, my wonderful program director, really helped me. He said, 'Take the time off. I don't want you to get sick and really miss a lot of time.' And you know what? A streak is a streak. I didn't care at all about it. I just went to work every day because that was my job."

Having painted the word picture for every Yankees inning since Steve Sax and Alvaro Espinoza comprised the 1989 squad's double-play combination, Sterling said he was especially worn down and dehydrated by the London Series against the Red Sox, which necessitated taking two lengthy flights in the span of three days.

He returned to call the two Subway Series games at Citi Field, then remained at his New Jersey apartment while the Yankees split a four-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field, having been instructed to drink fluids, eat well and rest.

"I did, and I put the games on. I had a nice four days off," Sterling said. "I have two big screens, and one night I watched the Mets and the Yankees with the sound off, and watched both games. I really enjoyed it, and everything is much better."

The closest comparable streak was compiled by 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.

Sterling said he plans to miss one additional game on this homestand, the July 16 contest against Tampa Bay, and is considering skipping some road trips next year. Sterling said he was touched by the attention that his absence from the booth prompted.

"Everyone made a big fuss of it," Sterling said. "The publicity was phenomenal, across the country, my goodness. It surprised me. All my buddies have been telling me; Tom Hamilton in Cleveland and Denny Matthews in Kansas City, they all take days off. So does Michael [Kay], so does Gary Cohen, so does Howie Rose. So it's about time, and I'm glad I did it."