By AVERY YANG
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — John Sterling has called every New York Yankees game since 1989. That streak is about to end.
Feeling a little run down, the team’s radio play-by-play announcer will finally take a breather this weekend when the Yankees play a four-game series at Tampa Bay beginning Thursday — his 81st birthday. Ryan Ruocco will fill in, giving Sterling an eight-day respite that includes the All-Star break next week.
Sterling just got back from London, where the Yankees swept two games from the rival Boston Red Sox last weekend.
“My ears are clogged up. I can’t talk, which is tough on the air,” Sterling told The Associated Press before broadcasting Tuesday night’s Subway Series opener against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
Sterling has worked 5,059 consecutive Yankees games — including the postseason, according to the team.
“My program director felt it’d be a good time to take some time off,” he said.
The popular Sterling is well-known for his flamboyant idiosyncrasies, pithy catchphrases — “it is high, it is far, it is gone!” — and quirky (some might even say corny) home run calls that he ascribes to each particular player.
For example, “Gleyber Day!” follows a long ball by Gleyber Torres. Brett Gardner home runs are a “Gardy Party!”
And when New York closes out a victory: “Ballgame over! Yankees win! The …….. Yankees win!”
Count manager Aaron Boone among Sterling’s many fans.
“His voice, his calls, I try to listen to them every night,” Boone said. “If I want to see certain plays or highlights, I always love watching them with a John Sterling call. So hopefully it’s a few days that allow him to recharge, refresh and be able to do his thing the way he’s capable of for the second half.”
Sterling said his streak extends all the way back to his days with Turner Sports in the 1980s, when he called Atlanta Braves and Hawks games. But even then, he never thought of it as a “streak.”
“I was paid to do the games, and every day I got up and got my tail to the ballpark,” Sterling said.
“A little tough with baseball because it is every day. But I can’t say — I never thought it was tough. I don’t look back on it as tough. If you say, well, does it hurt that your streak’s ending? Not at all.”
So, for the first time since 1988, the Yankees will play a game Thursday without Sterling in the broadcast booth.
How will he spend his well-earned rest?
“Fall apart,” Sterling said with a smile.