Yankees

Keefe To The City: A Night With John And Suzyn

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John Sterling  (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

John Sterling (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By Neil Keefe
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“And as _________ steps up to the plate, stepping up to the microphone is the voice of the New York Yankees … here is John Sterling.”

“Well, Suzyn, I thank you.”

How many times have I heard that intro? I don’t know. Hundreds? If I can’t watch a Yankees game on TV, I listen to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman call it on the radio. And sometimes I choose to listen to them call it. Especially if it’s a FOX or ESPN game.

The last couple of weeks I have heard several Yankees radio broadcasts and they have been epic. So epic that Boomer and Carton and Mike Francesa have used more than the usual amount of Sterling sound bytes to display the voice of the Yankees’ many rare calls. During the Yankees-Rangers series at the Stadium a couple weeks ago, Sterling was on fire with giving away free sports radio material and the finale of that series was incredible. I listened to the entire extra-inning game on the radio and loved every second of it. From Sterling calling Brian Gordon by the names of Brian Wilson and Eric Gordon to his simply fantastic calls of the game, it was unbelievable. So, I had this idea: Why not listen to an entire Yankees game on the radio and write down my thoughts as the game goes on?

With the Brewers in town on Tuesday night, I put the game on YES on mute and turned up WCBS and let John and Suzyn take me through the series opener. While watching the game and listening to Sterling simultaneously, it’s almost like I had the answer sheet to a test and was able to check my answers as I went along. But it worked out perfectly. Here’s what transpired on Tuesday night…

Top of 1st
“And as the second baseman, Rickie Weeks, steps up to the plate, stepping up to the microphone is the voice of the New York Yankees … here is John Sterling.”

“Well, Suzyn, I thank you.”

It’s the first inning and with a matchup of Freddy Garcia against Zack Greinke, it has a “You can’t predict baseball” feel all over it. Greinke has had a very strange year, but has six games with nine strikeouts or more. On the other hand, he doesn’t pitch well against the Yankees, so hopefully that trend continues.

Roll Call from the Bleacher Creature in Section 203 always sounds better on the radio. The entire stadium noise sounds better for that matter and it gives you the feel that you’re at the game. Well, if you’re at the game and a man and a woman are telling you every single thing that happens.

We are only a few minutes into the game, but Sterling has had a perfect broadcast even though nothing has really happened.

Now Freddy Garcia has put two men on with a single and a hit by pitch and John let’s us know, “This is exactly how the Yankees did not want to start the game.”

Prince Fielder is up with two men on and John and Suzyn are talking about Prince as a 12-year-old hitting bombs into the black at the old Yankee Stadium. Now they’re talking about Fielder’s impending free agency and all the possible landing spots for him by just running through each team. Suzyn thinks Baltimore would be a great option. I don’t agree with her. The last thing we need is Prince Fielder in the AL East. Let’s hot have anymore left-handed sluggers playing nine games at Yankee Stadium. Adrian Gonzalez is enough. I would put David Ortiz in that category, but I’m not scared of him anymore even if he is having a solid season. I’m still waiting for his summer press conference where the head of the MLBPA will be sitting next to him.

“Garcia gets into out of trouble,” and the Yankees avoid letting Greinke take the mound with a lead.

Bottom 1st
Brett Gardner gets hit by a pitch to lead off the game for the Yankees and John says, “When you get Gardner on base to start an inning, you got a chance to score a run.” This is true.

Granderson hits a ball to center field and it’s the first chance of the game to listen to Sterling’s technique in which anyone who has ever listened to a game he has called knows that he says whatever comes to his mind as it’s happening and then after the play is over, he recaps the play for you and let’s you know exactly what happened — you know, what he should be doing as the play is actually happening. But it’s his patented move and what makes him entertaining and unique, so I enjoy it.

Here’s Sterling’s call…

“It’ll be a 1-2 … pitch swung on and hit in the air to center … Morgan going back … stops … falls down … and the ball lands and rolls past him! Gardner rounds third … he’ll score. Granderson goes to third and the Yankees take a 1-0 lead!

And here’s his recap…

“Morgan darted back … stopped … turned and fell down … and the ball landed just out of his reach, bounded past him and went to the Monument Park wall. It’s a ribbbbbie triple for Granderson, and the Yankees take a 1-0 lead!”

Sterling is always more descriptive on his recap of the play than the actual play since he tries to anticipate and predict what will happen, but hey, whatever works.

Now Suzyn chimes in on the Morgan blunder by saying, “Well, what a terrible play by Nyjer Morgan … he was right there, and went to his right and fell down!”

Now there are two on and two out for “Jorge POsada” as Sterling likes to say, and an odd play occurred. And whenever there is an odd play, you can bank on a classic call from Sterling.

Posada hit a grounder to third, McGehee fielded it and ran to the bag to tag A-Rod, who was running from second to third, but he missed him with the tag, and everyone is safe. Here’s how Sterling called it…

“Two on, two out … pitch … hit on the ground over third … diving stop for … and the tag is … not made! A-Rod escaped the tag!”

And here’s his recap…

“McGehee lunged at A-Rod running by him. Now, how can you see … if … it’s not possible to see if his glove brushed A-Rod. He’s on the ground, McGehee, he’s hurt. And A-Rod overran the bag and then went back and tagged it.”

Tough call for Sterling and an even tougher recap. Martin flies out to end the inning and we have made it through an entire inning without the word “predict” being used.

Top 2nd
An easy inning for Garcia so far and John says, “With Garcia, you don’t know. He may not want to throw the fastball over the plate.” Oh, OK.

Suzyn is giving her first scoreboard update of the day. The best part of the scoreboard updates is that John clearly hates them. He hates that his broadcast gets hijacked momentarily and hates that he has to interrupt Suzyn to give the play-by-play. It breaks up his flow and his rhythm and I kind of agree. And maybe the scoreboards can be taken out of the broadcast? I know it would be like taking away someone’s lines in a play in that Suzyn’s airtime would be cut down significantly, but it’s 2011. I don’t think anyone is waiting for Suzyn’s scoreboard updates to find out scores from around the league.

Bottom 2nd
Eduardo Nunez leads off the second for the Yankees and Sterling says, “So, here’s Nuney, who’s been playing well.” It’s weird whenever someone who isn’t a player, teammate, manager, trainer or someone who isn’t part of the team uses a player’s nickname. If Michael Kay started calling Jeter “Jeet” with Paul O’Neill it would be pretty bad, so I don’t know about Sterling using “Nuney” here. Also is it “Nuney” or “Nunie” or “Noonie?”

Nunez lines a single up the middle and Sterling gives the trademark, “Lined like a bullet … it’s a base hit to center field!” It’s the first “lined like a bullet” of the day. The word “predict” can’t be too far away.

On Nunez…

John: “The Yankees have found a good ballplayer.”

Suzyn: “Yes, he is a good ballplayer. The defense will come.”

Is it really automatic that the defense will come? Listen, I like Nunez, but if he is the real reason that Cliff Lee isn’t a Yankee then I hate him. Well, I don’t hate him, I hate whoever didn’t make the move for Lee because they wanted to hang on to him. Brian Cashman, cough, cough.

Greinke walks A-Rod for his third walk of the game in 1.1 innings and he has also hit a batter. Sterling hints at “predict” with “Gee, I’m glad I gave you that walk stat. He’s now walked three and hit a batter. Amazing.”

John: “This will be his [Greinke] 50th pitch.”

Suzyn: “Isn’t that something?”

(Just say, “You can’t predict baseball!” One time!)

Cano singles to center and “Lined like a bullet … base hit center field … a ribbbbbie for Robbie!” It’s the second “lined like a bullet” of the game.

Swisher follows Cano and here’s what happened next…

“And it’ll be a 2-0 … swung on … there is a long drive to right center … back is Morgan … a way back … and that ball is … GONE! Nick Swisher hits another big home run left-handed. This one a three-run home run! Hooooooooo, he’s positively Swishalicious! A three-run blast and the Yankees have opened it up! They have a 7-0 lead!”

A perfect home run call from John. I’m speechless.

Top 3rd
Jonathan Lucroy grounds out softly to A-Rod to open the third on this play…

“Here’s Garcia’s 2-1 … and the pitch is tapped weakly to third … A-Rod hustles … barehands … fires … did he get him? He got him! One away!”

I always love when Sterling rhetorically asks if someone is safe or out because everyone listening to the broadcast can see what happened.

John: “The Yankees have a 7-0 lead. Who would have thunk it?”

Suzyn: “Who would have thunk it is right!”

The conversation about Fielder’s free agency comes up again. I can see this is going to happen every time he is up for the next three days.

Now they’re talking about whether or not Greinke will come out for the bottom of the third after his terrible start to the game…

Suzyn: “That is something about baseball though, John. Isn’t it? You just never know. You look and you see Zack Greinke against Freddy Garcia.”

John: “You’re right. Haha. You’re right. No, you don’t know. You absolutely don’t know.”

Suzyn: “That’s what’s so great about this game. You just don’t know!”

WOULD SOMEONE JUST SAY “YOU CAN’T PREDICT BASEBALL?!?!?!?!?!”

Bottom 3rd
John and Suzyn are trying to figure out if both Weavers went to Long Beach State. Just thinking about the Weavers makes me upset. The game has momentarily been ruined for me.

Marco Estrada balks…

“Now there’s a balk call. Howdoya like that? He dropped the ball.” There’s the first “Howdoya like that?” Still waiting on that other first…

Top 4th
It’s time for another scoreboard from Suzyn and John has to keep cutting her off to give the play-by-play. Luckily I have a computer, TV and phone to give me score updates so I don’t have to wait several innings to find out other scores if I wanted to.

There’s a play at the plate that involves both Nick Swisher and John Sterling. Whenever you get this combination, it usually results in an epic sound byte…

“Garcia deals … a breaking ball … hit in the air to right … Swisher in midright makes the catch … here comes Hart … here comes the throw … and it’s not in time … the throw to second … that’s in time!

Another perfect call from Sterling! What is going on? Is this real life?

Bottom 4th
I love when John says, “Cuuuuuuuuuuut on and missed.” It might be my favorite Sterlingism.

With the Yankees having a five-run lead so early on, you can sense that John and Suzyn just want everyone to get out and call it a night. I can’t blame them. Let’s get this thing on the left side (Hey, Michael Kay!) as fast as possible.

Meanwhile, Cliff Lee is no-hitting the Red Sox in Philadelphia. I’m glad he didn’t sign with the Yankees. All those people that justified how signing Lee wasn’t a big deal were right. Having maybe the best lefty on the planet to face a team that is left-handed top heavy and gets shut down by mediocre lefties would be terrible.

Top 5th
Mark Feinsand is in the booth for the Daily News 5th. Mark always does a great job, and is a good addition to the broadcast.

The trio is talking about Derek Jeter playing rehab game in the minors. Do you think minor league teams root for major leaguers to get injured and have to play rehab games? I definitely think they do. It’s a guaranteed sellout and that means food, merchandise and apparel sales go through the roof. I’m sure the players don’t mind either since they usually get a nice paid meal and don’t have to eat peanut butter and jelly again.

Bottom 5th
Marco Estrada is still pitching and Suzyn says, “This is where Sergio Mitre would be in the game.” He would be in the game, if you know, he wasn’t terrible and didn’t get designated for assignment by the Brewers.

The Brewers should be lucky Mitre isn’t in the game. Actually they obviously know this because they DFA’d him. The Yankees are well aware at what he brings to the table. Though I have been waiting since he became a Yankee for the chance for the Yankees to hit off him and just hang a massive crooked number against him. If I hear anything else about how the Yankees should bring him back I’m going to lose my mind.

John and Suzyn say that Joe Torre and Bob Uecker were roommates on the Braves. I didn’t know this. A very interesting fact.

During Russell Martin’s at-bat, Sterling says, “Suzyn will have a scoreboard in the top of the next inning.” Noooooooooooooo! Please noooooooooooo!

Nunez hits a ball to the warning track, but John doesn’t even get excited and doesn’t even put his home run call into motion. Nothing is fooling John tonight.

Top 6th
The inning is flying along. Freddy Garcia has two outs on three pitches and Suzyn’s scoreboard updates are in serious jeopardy of not getting finished before The Chief can get another out. This has become a race. Can Suzyn tell everyone every score around the league before The Chief can retire one more batter! Stay tuned!

Corey Hart doubles down the left field line to keep the inning alive and allowing Suzyn to finish her scoreboard updates.

“It’ll be an 0-1 to Gamel … and the pitch is lined … there’s a base hit to right field … rounding third is Hart … here comes Swisher’s throw home … it’s going to be … in time! He’s out! What a throw by Swisher!”

A couple of things going on here:

1. Sterling calls the Swisher perfectly. Just crazy. Anytime Swisher and Sterling are involved in a play at the plate it usually means chaos.

2. Swisher just threw someone out at home. This is rare. Swisher has an arm slightly better than Johnny Damon’s, but no one ever talks about it like that. They sort of just pretend like he doesn’t have a bad arm and that he doesn’t lollipop every throw into the infield. This entire play and call was a miracle.

Bottom 6th
Suzyn is recapping the Swisher throw again and uses “lollipop” to talk about some of Swisher’s throws! It’s the first time I have ever said anyone say anything negative about the way Swisher throws. Woooooo Suzyn!

Granderson walks to bring up Teixeira…

“Now the right-hander deals … swung on and driven to deep right … that ball is high … it is far … it issssss GONE! In the second deck! Mark sends a Tex message down the right field line and into the second deck! Hooooooooo, you’re on the Mark, Teixeira!”

A flawless call from Sterling. I’m beginning to think he knew that I was going to write this piece and is making sure he doesn’t make an error.

Estrada gets taken out of the game after getting by a ball off the bat of A-Rod. Zach Braddock comes in for Estrada and Suzyn lets us know that he gets as long as he wants to get ready. Which brings the question: What if Braddock wanted to throw 200 pitches? What’s stopping him?

Top 7th
“YMCA” is blaring in the background to open the inning. It’s so loud that it feels like WCBS is actually playing the song on their airwaves rather than just picking up the noise from the Stadium.

John says, “Again fouled off … my goodness” after Lucroy sees his 12th pitch of the at-bat.

Noesi is having trouble putting anyone away. It’s foul ball after foul ball and Suzyn says, “Video tape gets around really fast” regarding Noesi not fooling anyone. Really? Thanks. I can watch every MLB game on my computer or on TV if I want that I sure hope any MLB team can have access to the same video that I have and more.

It takes Noesi 34 pitches to get through the inning, but he finally does, and John lets his unhappiness with the pace of the game known as he says, “Well, it took a while” before he goes to break.

Bottom 7th
LaTroy Hawkins in to pitch for the Brewers. I’m glad he has a similar role with the Brewers that he did with the Yankees: pitch in a game his team trails by 10 runs. Hawkins was terrible as a Yankee between his wearing No. 21 then switching to No. 22 then posting a 5.71 ERA in 33 games and 41 innings. He was the scariest Yankee to take the mound in 2008 and that team had Jose Veras AND Edwar Ramirez. I wonder why they didn’t make the playoffs. (Well, that and the long list of injuries and the fact that they went through half a season with Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner as 40 percent of their roster. No big deal.)

Teixeira hits a long fly ball to right field and Sterling isn’t fazed by the crowd’s reaction to it being a possible home run. He calls it perfectly. Is this real life?

Top 8th
Sterling calls Ramiro Pena “Nino” to begin the eighth (remember our player nickname chat from before?) and John and Suzyn are now talking about long and slow this game has been. Thanks for telling me! I didn’t decide to follow the broadcast for it and write down all my thoughts. I have about 93 pages of notes and there’s still another inning to be played. I should be watching Bruce Springsteen on the Palladia channel or something.

Bottom 8th
I can clearly make out the “Horse’s Ass” chant from Section 203 in the background as the Bleacher Creatures heckle Corey Hart.

Ramiro Pena works an eight-pitch at-bat in his first at-bat of the game to lead off the eighth. I can see he’s in no rush to get this game over with.

How are the Brewers in first place in the NL Central? Maybe a better question: How bad is the NL? I know this is only one game, but I watched them get picked apart by the Red Sox a week ago. It’s too bad the Yankees’ schedule isn’t NL Central heavy every year.

Top 9th
Craig Counsell makes the final out of what was a long game. John gives a decent “Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!” for a three-hour, 12-2 game.

It was about as close to perfection a broadcast as I ever heard John Sterling deliver and there wasn’t A SINGLE “You can’t predict baseball” line. No variation of the word “predict” was even uttered. What a night.

The Yankees move 1 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the division. Like I said, what a night.

Follow Neil on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NeilKeefe

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