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the voice of the yankees

Hart Seely on How the Man Is Keeping Down His John Sterling Blog

Up until last week, if you were seeking out a place on the Internet for John Sterling–related audio clips (i.e., gaffes), statistics (i.e., graphs charting the length of his "the Yankees win" calls), and audio mash-ups (i.e., radio calls mixed in with the likes of AC/DC and the Smashing Pumpkins), you'd almost certainly have found yourself at It Is High, It Is Far, It Is Caught, an off-beat blog about both the Voice of the Yankees and the team for which he broadcasts.

We've made no secret of how much we enjoy the site, and apparently we're not alone: The site's traffic has increased this year as interest in Sterling's calls has grown. (Really.) Then, last week, the unthinkable: MLB Advanced Media filed a copyright claim with YouTube — where all of the site's clips had been uploaded — and all of the audio was wiped out in one fell swoop.

Two of the site's contributors — Hart Seely (who writes as "el duque") and comic-book writer Tom Peyer (who goes by "SUPERFRANKENSTEIN") — aren't new to obsessive projects about Yankee announcers: They co-edited the book O Holy Cow: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto, a volume of actual Scooter broadcast dialogue arranged into short poems. This site, however, is something different: "a labor of love," as Seely calls it. We asked Seely about how this all went down, and what's next for the site.

So did you expect this would happen at some point?
Yeah. I always figured they would come after us someday. But I was in denial. We never ran game highlights and basically concentrated on the mundane conversation between John and Suzyn, which is the golden cucumber of every Yankee broadcast. I figured the WinWarbles — eight seconds of audio, max — were too minuscule for copyright lawyers to bother with. Also, we are a completely noncommercial site — no ads. We're just a bunch of psycho Yankee fans dedicated to harping about the most ridiculous tangents we can imagine. We wanted to escape the world of serious writers and bloggers. I thought that being ludicrous would indemnify us from the non-ludicrous world. Obviously, that's a ludicrous notion.

Any idea why this happened now?
The sudden interest in John's home-run calls for Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, Brett Gardner — which we always treated as huge, raging, national controversies — got traffic, a few thousand hits. We ended up running a few home-run calls, and I think that did it. Also, I think they concluded that we were tapping into a certain side of John's fan base — sort of making fun of him, sort of loving him. Seriously, who else would measure WinWarbles by seconds? Actually, I'm told Mike Francesa has recently started something along those lines; great minds, eh? We were having fun, so it was time to put a stop to it.

How did it go down? Did you hear from anyone associated with Major League Baseball?
When I recently accessed my YouTube account, I was met with a list of videos that had been challenged by MLB. YouTube said they were going to send me an e-mail, but I've never gotten it. They simply took everything down. They took down videos that have no MLB audio, no John Sterling, nothing. As best as I can see, they panicked like pregnant rabbits in a barn fire. They must have thought Bud Selig was coming down the street with his rug on upside down.

What's next for the site?
Don't know. We've talked of running a guerrilla operation, putting up the videos and then taking them down — like Christian Slater in that teen radio-piracy movie, where the authorities cannot stop the lonely voice of youth and truth — but if YouTube pulls the plug on us, so might Blogspot. Also, to be really honest, this has been a labor of love. Most organizations would give anything to have websites full of writers devoted to a humorous side of their product. I've thought of pulling the plug, just posting a big finger to MLB, and devoting all my attention to measuring Lindsay Lohan's breathalyzer results.

What do you think John Sterling would say about all of this?
He'd say you can't predict blogging. And he'd add that Derek Jeter is an amazing human being.

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Photo: Patrick McMullan