Always Wanted to Do This

Broadcasting the New York Yankees for 25 years: John Sterling

Broadcasting the New York Yankees for 25 years: John Sterling

I (Evander) always fantasized broadcasting a major-league baseball game—or at least one inning. But either at the stadium or in front of the boob tube with the sound turned off, I have found the task requires enormous skill.

Time was broadcasters were strictly and essentially on-air journalists. A few brought along oversized personalities: Harry Caray for the Chicago Cubs, Ronald Reagan (a well-worn anecdote on broadcasting from a broken ticker-tape description), Dizzy Dean on “The Game of the Week,” Mel Allen and his “Ballantine Blasts” by the New York Yankees. But Dean (“He slud [for slid] into second”) was a rarity: the jock-turned-broadcaster, as was the more articulate Waite Hoyt.

When Phil Rizzuto was unceremoniously dumped by the Yankees, his playing career abruptly terminated, he was offered jobs with the Baltimore Orioles and the (then-)New York Giants to broadcast games, before the Yankees realized that they had one of the most endearing personalities ever and invited him back. Rizzuto took a crash course in enunciation and grammar. He still felt overwhelmed among professional announcers. Roughly five years later, the New York Mets hired home-run king Ralph Kiner to join two of the best-trained voices of the game who ever lived: Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy.

A new trend was in place: Rizzuto, Dean, Jerry Coleman, Kiner, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan. And the beat went on.

Today, nearly sixty-years later, the John Sterlings and the venerable Vin Scullys are well outnumbered by former players: color commentators and play-by-play men. (Sterling’s daily booth-mate is one of the few and perhaps only female broadcaster: ex-singer Suzyn Waldman.) The grammar can be tortured and the descriptions are rarely the most inventive. But these former players are almost all college men, sophisticated in the arts of doing interviews and giving quotes.

They are way better than I ever could hope to be.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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