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Sterling Forever Linked To Yankees

Jason Barrett

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Back in 1990, when the Bronx was still a zoo and long before anyone had heard of the Core Four, the struggling New York Yankees were headed for just the fourth last-place finish in franchise history. They were getting ripped in the press and on the local sports-talk airwaves, with fans directing much of their ire at owner George Steinbrenner. While broadcasting a Yankees game on the final day of a homestand that June, radio play-by-play man John Sterling, then in his second year with the club, suggested to his listeners that they lay off Steinbrenner and general manager Harding “Pete” Peterson, and instead focus their frustration at the players themselves.

Steinbrenner must have been listening, and he must have appreciated someone coming to his defense when it was unpopular to do so. A few days later, during a rain delay of a Yankees-Brewers game at Milwaukee County Stadium, Sterling ran into the Boss, who had traveled with the team to see his friend, then-Brewers owner Bud Selig: “He said to me, ‘John, I want to tell you something. You’ll always do the Yankee games, and if they ever try to replace you, I’ll veto it.’”

That July, Steinbrenner was temporarily banned by Major League Baseball (he paid a known gambler, Howie Spira, to dig up dirt on former Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield; Steinbrenner was reinstated by MLB in 1993). And in August, Peterson was fired. But 25 years later, Sterling remains at the microphone, having not missed a single game since arriving in the Bronx. He’s the longtime play-by-play voice of the league’s most popular team, in the country’s biggest market. But he’s also become one of the most polarizing figures in sports media for his catchphrase-heavy shtick and occasional on-air blunders.

Sterling knows what people say about him. And he says it doesn’t bother him. In fact, he’d rather people say it to his face.

Born in 1938 and raised on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Sterling began his radio career at a small station in upstate New York. He eventually landed a gig as a rock DJ in Providence, and later hosted a general talk show in Baltimore. He’d sometimes talk about sports on air, which led to work calling games of the NFL’s Colts and NBA’s Bullets, back when both teams were still located in the city.

In 1971, Sterling returned to his hometown, and the following year he began hosting a sports-talk show on WMCA. In 1975, he started calling games for the Islanders and the Nets, both of whom then played on Long Island, but he spent much of the 1980s in Atlanta as the play-by-man for the Braves and the Hawks. It was there that he displayed the forerunners to the unique calls that would become his signature. When describing a particularly spectacular play by Hawks star Dominique Wilkins, he’d exclaim “Dominique is magnifique!” or “Dominique is terifique!”

In 1989, Sterling landed the Yankees radio job without an audition, thanks to someone at WABC (then the team’s radio home) who’d remembered his work in New York from the 1970s and had heard him more recently on Atlanta-based TBS. The hire apparently delighted Steinbrenner, who later told Sterling that he’d always wanted him to call Yankees games.

By the mid 1990s, New York was improving thanks to the homegrown players who would form the foundation of a new dynasty; 1995 alone saw the major league debuts of four players—Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera,Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada—who would come to be known as the Core Four for helping the Yankees win five World Series titles. Sterling’s calls of those famed teams would help bring him to the attention of fans nationwide.

It was around that time that Sterling began to develop a trademark style. It began with the way he punctuated New York’s victories. After one game during Buck Showalter’s tenure as manager, which ran from 1992-95, rather than simply saying “Yankees win!” Sterling tacked on a few words in his deep, booming voice: “Yankees win! The Yankees win!”

“I did it very straight,” Sterling recalls.

But by changing the delivery, it would soon become one of his signature calls. “One day, for whatever reason, I put a little rock-and-roll into it,” he says: “Yankees win, thuuuuuhhh Yankees win.

“I started hearing it come back,” recalled Sterling on a May afternoon from his broadcast booth at Yankee Stadium. People would yell the phrase back at him from across the street, or tell him that Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo were discussing it on their influential WFAN radio show. “It became a thing, so I kept it,” he says.

Sterling learned early in his career how catchphrases could enter the lexicon: He remembers hearing lines from the TV program Get Smart when he was still a young radio DJ, and even though he himself worked nights and never watched the show, he knew the significance of sayings like “Sorry about that, Chief” and “Missed it by that much.”

Consider his personalized home-run calls for each player on the Yankees, which draw on everything from Broadway lyrics to groan-worthy wordplay, and have gotten increasingly stylistic ever since he innocently debuted his first ones, for Bernie Williams, the Yankees’ longtime centerfielder. (One of Sterling’s Williams calls, “Bern, baby, Bern,” was meant as a reference to the civil rights rallying cry, not the song “Disco Inferno.”)

Almost all of his home run calls begin with the lines “It is high, it is far, it is gone.” The personalization follows: When former Yankee Curtis Granderson went deep, Sterling’s call was “Oh Curtis, you’re something sort of Grandish,” a reference to the musical Finian’s Rainbow. Lance Berkman hit just one home run for the Yankees but he still got a personalized call, one owing to the musicalCamelot: “Sir Lancelot rides to the rescue! C’est lui! C’est lui!” Melky Cabrera’s homers were announced as “the Melkman delivers.” Alex Rodriguez’s dingers are “A-bombs from A-Rod.” Tino Martinez was the “Bam-tino”; Jason Giambi, the “Giambino.” Once upon a time, only select players got individualized calls, but now that it’s part of his established shtick, there’s demand for more.

“The home run thing has become a cottage industry,” says Sterling. “Now I have to do it for everyone.”

Read the rest of this article by SI by clicking here

Sports Radio News

Chick Hearn Headlines Radio Hall of Fame Legends Inductees

Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.

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Chick Hearn

The Museum of Broadcast Communications announced today the selection of 10 new Legends inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame for 2022. This distinction honors those in the industry who have contributed greatly to it and have since passed away.

Chick Hearn, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be amongst those inducted in Chicago next month. Hearn was the voice of the Lakers for 41 years (1961-2002). Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.  

The full list of those to be inducted as part of the Legends class are:

  • MrDoug Banks– Nationally syndicated on-air personality;
  • MrJames Brown– Legendary singer, to be inducted as a radio station owner of WJBE Knoxville, TN;
  • MrBob Coburn– Host of the syndicated Rockline show;
  • Mr. Chick Hearn– Play-by-play announcer/voice of the Los Angeles Lakers;
  • MsBernice Judis– Owner and General Manager, WNEW-AM, 1930’s–1950’s;
  • MrSid Mark– Host of syndicated program, Sounds of Sinatra show for 60+ years;
  • Mr. Bobby O’Jay– On-air personality, WDIA-AM/Memphis;
  • MrPervis Spann– On-air personality, WVON-AM/Chicago;
  • Mr. James Thompson– Group W Broadcasting President and President of the Broadcasters Foundation;
  • Ms. Rosalie Trombley– Music Director of CKLW-AM/Detroit in the 1960’s–1970’s.

“The Radio Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the individuals who have made the greatest impact on our 100+ year old industry,” Kraig T. Kitchin, Co-Chairman, Radio Hall of Fame said. “I’m thrilled to see the Nominating Committee confirm the induction of these 10 individuals who each made such an impact on our industry in their time.”    

The Radio Hall of Fame will recognize its 2022 class of inductees, including the class announced in July, during a ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st.

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Sports Radio News

Tobin and Leroy Debut on WQAM Middays

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tobin and Leroy

After a brief hiatus and the closure of 790 The Ticket, Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard officially returned to the Miami airwaves on Monday on 560 WQAM.

Tobin and Leroy debuted in its new midday timeslot of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the station.

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Tobin added that the timing between when they made their exit from The Ticket and returned on WQAM was a bit off.

“It was a very weird week for us to take off last week. Because they were like, ‘Hey, you’re change times, you’re gonna change stations, and also it’s gonna be the busiest sports week of the year,'” he said. “So now we’re back, and nothing will happen this week.”

“There has been less action on days we thought we had to be here than what happened last week,” Hoard added.

Hoard actually arrived to the show late, citing traffic issues getting to the station. That was something even Tobin noted is an adjustment they have to make from when they were doing morning drive.

“We’ve all discovered here today is traffic is not the same at 8 a.m. as it is at 4 a.m.,” he said. “Very different.”

Tobin made sure WQAM listeners knew that even though they switched stations, the show isn’t changing. They continued with all the usual segments that fans know and love on Monday.

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Sports Radio News

Mike Rhyner Introduces Dallas to 97.1 The Freak

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

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Ben Torres / Special Contributor Dallas Morning News

There’s a new radio station in Dallas which features a number of personalities familiar to local sports radio listeners. 97.1 The Freak made its much anticipated debut and the first voice to be heard belonged to the ”Old Grey Wolf” Mike Rhyner.

97.1 The Eagle stopped regular programming late Monday morning and began stunting, a technique radio stations use to separate listeners from old programming and prepare them for new content. The station began by playing songs with the word “freak” in them before transitioning into a continuous loop of “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty until 3p CT. Then, a voiceover detailing the Eagle’s history switched into the voice that Dallas-Forth Worth residents have gotten to know so well, Mike Rhyner.

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

Rhyner went on to relive his final moments at The Ticket in Dallas. He said he was getting his “head around being a Paw Paw” before getting a call from Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show and thus an idea for The Freak began to take shape.

After that, the show’s intro music played and Rhyner welcomed in Mike Sirois and before you knew it, the guys were wondering about a quarterback controversy in Dallas.

97.1 The Freak is off and running with a lineup that includes “The Speakeasy,” with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather in mornings (7-11am), “Ben & Skin Show” in middays (11am-3pm) and “The Downbeat” in afternoons (3p-7p) featuring Mike Rhyner alongside Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber.

The station is positioning itself as a lifestyle brand but given its talent connection to local sports radio and the strong interest in Dallas sports, it’s likely the talent will weave sports talk into their on-air discussions. Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan have enjoyed good ratings with the male 25-54 demographic and The Freak is expected to challenge them and every other brand that produces spoken word content.

“We’re beyond excited to introduce 97-1 the Freak – the level of talent is insurmountable, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to further connect with Dallas Fort Worth,” Patrick Davis, Regional Senior Vice President of Programming Dallas, shared in an announcement.

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