From Jim Kaat’s book releasing Tuesday, “Good as Gold: My Eight Decades in Baseball”:
After one year in the Yankees’ TV booth , “Lev Pope, the president of WPIX, wanted to sign me to a multi-year deal, but [George] Steinbrenner wouldn’t approve it. He had fired [Billy] Martin as manger [for the fourth of five times] and needed a spot for him so he used that as an excuse not to re-hire me.
“The real reason was I was too honest and objective for him — not Yankee-biased enough. … I think the reason I was accepted by viewers in the New York market is because I was not a homer.”
On the day he joined WPIX-Ch. 11, Martin declared he planned to be a total homer and that Steinbrenner wants him to be “my eyes every day.” That was more like it.
In 1989, Steinbrenner found another perfect fit. He hired bootlicking John Sterling as the radio voice of the Yankees. The rest is a 32-year continuing history of blown calls, and premature, wildly and inexcusably inaccurate presumptions that, if corrected, are heard on the third try.
Sterling arrived in The Bronx with a reputation as a tattletale, whatever it took to gain favor with team owners to land his next broadcasting gig.
His smug, condescending, ignore-the game, self-promotional cheerleading had already made Islanders and New Jersey Nets radio and TBS’s Braves telecasts a dare to suffer.
And, of course, as the “eyes and ears” of Yankees radio, he has given his one-size-fits-all call to hundreds of Yankees home runs that weren’t — a highly unprofessional, self-imposed habit he could’ve cured 32 years ago by waiting to know for sure rather than embarrassing himself.
But he chose to maintain his course. So what if he leaves Yankees fans disappointed and baseball fans to wonder how the New York Yankees would allow Sterling to represent them on such a stage.
For the past two seasons I’ve stayed off Sterling’s back in deference to his age. But in the past several days, while stuck in the car listening to him, he is no different at 83 than he was at 51. To him, his mere presence is why we listen. The games, as well as the scores of games, both of which he so often ignores, are, at best, secondary.
Before he was hired by the Yankees, I witnessed him as he literally stood at his courtside microphone position to lead cheers for individual Nets while concocting strained and silly nicknames for them, another of his transparently self-promotional, untreated habits.
And since 1989 there has been no one at his station or within the Yankees to fix him, to set him straight, thus the most famous team in baseball history continues to give Sterling its full blessings to destroy broadcasts along the Yankees Radio Network, Florida through New England, and even on a station in Hawaii.
Last Saturday, Sterling announced that DJ LeMahieu, “Pops it foul, outside of third,” then returned to his “You know, Suzyn” pontification. Did the ball land in the stands, was it caught by the third baseman? He didn’t bother to say. As usual. It’s radio, for crying out loud!
The next batter was Joey Gallo: “There she goes!” Sterling hollered. Then,“If it stays fair, it’s gone!” Then, “off the top of the wall!”
Then back to talking down to us.
Wednesday, Giancarlo Stanton at bat: “Swung on, there it goes! Deep left center! That ball is high! … It is far! … It is gone! … But caught. Boy, I though that was gone.”
He’s been thinking that for 32 years, and has been wrong hundreds of times. But nothing will change. His botched home run calls will be his legacy. A day at the beach with Sterling is no day at the beach. Pity, he and the Yankees allowed him to do that to himself, not to mention us.
SNY’s ‘foul’ criticism of replay call just not fair
When in doubt, blame the umpires.
Wednesday on SNY, the Phillies’ Johan Camargo lined one straight down the left-field line for a two-run double. Neither Gary Cohen nor Keith Hernandez had a problem with the “fair ball” call. The ball appeared to hit the line, as the first replay appeared to validate.
But the Mets challenged the call. Eventually, a freeze-frame replay showed that the ball may have missed the chalk, foul ball, even if some of the dirt spatter had landed atop the line. It was so close it took a lot of time to finally rule it foul, and I still had my doubts.
But after a third replay, Cohen said it “clearly appeared to be a foul ball.” That’s a lot of hindsight on a very tough call. Hernandez attacked third base ump and crew chief Marvin Hudson with, “How can a major league ump miss that call?”
That was terribly unfair, as, if Hudson missed it, it was by a fraction of an inch. And both Cohen and Hernandez initially were surprised the Mets were challenging, then needed several slo-mo, freeze-framed replays to reach their conclusion, which still reasonably could have gone either way.
Yet again, Rangers MSG patrons must decide to attend Stanley Cup games due to obscene price-gouging, during the playoffs, the kind that will force many of the team’s most devoted fans to sell their tickets to brokers.
A regular-season ticket that cost $294 per game will cost $394 through the first round, $495 through the second, $710 through the third, $1,250 per ticket come the fourth round. But shameless is now confused with good business.
Sluggers a bunch of posers
Aaron Boone seems satisfied with the least his players can do, thus Giancarlo Stanton continues to pose at home plate, even if his blasts land in the first row or bang against the wall. His habit-formed failure to run in last year’s playoff loss to the Red Sox turned at least a double into a single.
As a Marlin, Stanton wrecked his groin sliding awkwardly toward second after jogging to first before seeing his fly ball drop. But he doesn’t learn — or doesn’t care — and it’s not as if Boone demands better.
Now let’s see how Buck Showalter handles Pete Alonso’s home plate posing on balls that barely get out, plus his immodest bat-flipping. If Showalter wants to complain about his batter’s being plunked …
With the Bills re-signing WR Stefon Diggs for $96 million, several readers asked how much of that will be supplied by taxpayers in light of the $850 million New York will shovel for a new stadium under the tacit threat of the Bills bolting Buffalo?
Will taxpayers be discounted on the Bills’ Roger Goodell “good investments” PSLs?
SNY has finally followed YES’s lead by posting the name of both pitcher and batter near the score box. Such info is instantaneously helpful.
TV cartoon fans of a certain (old) age may recall Quick Draw McGraw’s alter ego, El Kabong. As seen Wednesday on MSG, in the sixth race from Keeneland, El Kabong went off at 14-1.
Darn if it didn’t win, paying $36.60. Cartoon fans of a certain age wouldn’t have had two bucks on El Kabong?