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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

My Weird Yankee Uncle

Green grass, singin’ birds and warm breezes are all part of April. For me, so is the great John Sterling.

The 2010 baseball season is off and running. I’m hoping my Baltimore Orioles will make some progress in the American League East this season, but life in orange and black is not off to an encouraging start: The Birds blew a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, and lost their opening game, 4-3.

As we are far removed from Baltimore — and Baltimore Oriole fans in Albany are about as rare as Baltimore Orioles (the real kind) in Albany — I will be able to follow the New York Yankees more closely. With TV’s YES Network and local radio station WTMM (104.5-FM) covering every game, I’ll see and hear more about Jeter, Swisher and Cano than I will Markakis, Roberts and Tejada.

That’s OK. For me, one of the pleasures of spring, summer and fall is listening to the Yankee radio broadcasts in the my backyard. During the late afternoon, I generally have my barbecue grill going. During the evening, I generally have a few beers going, under the stars. I’m always rooting against the Yankees, but I’m always kind of rooting for old John Sterling.

The great Sterling is back in the broadcast booth for the Yankees, and he’s been a team broadcaster for the last 20-plus years.

And it’s true — Sterling is not for every taste. He’s got bombastic calls, and corny nicknames for all the Yankee hotshots. But I’ve always find his delivery smooth, his calls generally accurate, occasionally dramatic and he keeps me interested ... even if the Yankees are beating Baltimore, 12-0. I can’t listen to other radio announcers ... they just bore me to death. They drone along, without any excitement or drama in their voices.

A lot of times, teams fill broadcast slots with ex-players. That’s the trend, and I’m not sure if it’s a good one. And while the Yankees have scored with the excellent ex-jocks Ken Singleton and Al Leiter — even Paul O’Neill — other teams have not been as lucky. I’d rather listen to a cat fight at midnight than listen to the dull Keith Hernandez on the New York Mets’ TV side.

Old Sterling may be corny, but he’s never boring. To me, John is like the eccentric uncle everyone had as kids. A little nuts, kind of funny, but pretty entertaining. And the oddball uncle was always somebody you wanted to spend a little time with.

I’m not as crazy about Sterling’s “Yankee companera,” Suzyn Waldman. She’s still a little bit too shrill for my refined tastes, a little too emotional. But she does know the game, and even Suzyn is starting to grow on me. I think she and old Sterling make a pretty good team.

The great Sterling and Waldman are signed through the 2011 season, and if the Yankees are smart, they’ll sign them up for another five years. Sterling, especially, has become so identified with the Yankee product with his distinctive calls and quirks that it just won’t be the same for fans with somebody else. Who else is going to bellow, “Thhhhheeee Yankees Win!” after victories in the Bronx and on the road?

Hopefully, there just won’t be too many of them.

I hope the Yankees are not stupid enough to send John walking in two years. Why would they get rid of all that experience? And would they really be so low-class as to walk a guy who’s been loyal to the pinstripe cause for 20 years? Sterling has never missed a radio game. If the Yankees bag anyone, it should be that smarmy Michael Kay on TV. He’s always come across as a know-it-all. Kind of another reason I prefer listening to Yankee games over watching them.

The Yankees have made dopey moves before — and if John leaves, I can only hope Baltimore picks him up. By that time, the Os should be in ascendency in the AL East. And I could get used to tuning in my satellite radio to hear Sterling announcing “Thhhhhhheeeee Orioles Win!” on a regular basis.

Long live Sterling!

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April 7, 2010
5:49 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I think even most Yankee fans dislike Michael Kay.

April 7, 2010
6:14 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Mmmmmm It's a howitzer ...from Howie!! As Sterling might say .... could not agree more on Michael Kay!!

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