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Longtime Yankees voice Sterling retires after 35-year run

The legendary radio voice of the Yankees, John Sterling, is retiring effective immediately after more than three decades in the booth, he and the team said Monday.

The Yankees and Sterling made the announcement after The Athletic reported on a planned news conference for this weekend in which the 85-year-old Sterling was anticipated to retire, citing health concerns. Sterling has been a broadcaster for 64 years.

The team will recognize his contributions in a pregame ceremony prior to Saturday’s Yankees-Rays game. He was originally slated to call the series.

WFAN will replace Sterling with 37-year-old Justin Shackil and 24-year-old Emmanuel Berbari, who combined are 24 years younger than Sterling. The two are already slated to call the majority of the road games this season with Suzyn Waldman. Neither Shackil nor Berbari are guaranteed to receive the full-time job.

Sterling was the soundtrack to the Derek Jeter-led Yankees title run from 1996 to 2000, when the franchise won four World Series in five years. He also made the call when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, a team led by CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. Sterling, who began calling Yankees games in 1989, punctuated the team’s wins with, “Thuuuuuu-uggh Yankees win!”


Inside the booth with Yankees legend John Sterling for his 36th home opener: ‘I’m near the end’

His unique home run calls live in Yankee lore with memorable calls including “Bern, baby, Bern!” for Bernie Williams and “A thrilla from Godzilla” for Hideki Matsui.

While Sterling has never been known for the most precise call of the game, he was a broadcasting version of Lou Gehrig, calling 5,060 consecutive games over 30 years. During the first of his nearly 36 seasons, Sterling missed two games due to the death of his sister. He was on the call for every other game until July 4, 2019, when illness caused him to miss a series.

Sterling called 5,631 Yankees games total (5,420 in the regular season and 211 in the playoffs).

Sterling informed Yankee and WFAN officials that he planned to retire last week, according to officials with direct knowledge. When reached late last week, Sterling declined to say he was officially done with broadcasting. He has been known to change his mind. On Monday, he acknowledged his decision is final.

“I will be very happy in my retirement,” Sterling said on WFAN, the Yankees’ flagship radio station, following the official announcement.

Sterling broadcast the Atlanta Braves and Hawks before becoming the voice of the Yankees. He used his rhythmic nickname style for Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, saying, “Dominique, manifique!”

But he will be most remembered for his Yankees years and his uniqueness on and off the air.

Even on the radio, Sterling wore a suit to every game he called. While technology averse, his voicemail on his cellphone greeted callers with, “Hi, congratulations, you have reached …”

He developed a strong bond with much of the Yankees fan base, many of whom went from the crib to adulthood only knowing him as the radio voice of their team.

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(Photo: Bob Karp / Staff Photographer / USA Today Network)

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