Earlier this month, Ralph Gardner Jr. of The Wall Street Journal wrote a complimentary piece about John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, praising them for their conversational style and calling them his "favorite announcers." (That column, by the way, is not to be confused with the paper's piece about Sterling's expiring contract from last month — the one in which we learned that one of Sterling's since-retired home-run catchphrases was a reference to a Black Panther's rallying cry.) But based on the feedback to that piece — today he ran some of the letters he received in response to the column — Sterling and Waldman are not the favorite announcers of many of his readers. Not even close, actually.
Here's one of the letters:
"How could you write that glowing article? I am 50 years old, a Yankee fan for over 40 years. My father grew up two blocks from Yankee Stadium and my grandfather rooted for them in the Twenties. These two announcers are among the WORST I have ever heard. Neither of them knows the first thing about baseball. They constantly say crazy things like "That's why people who say you can predict baseball are nuts"....I mean who says you can predict baseball?"
And here's another:
"If Jack Buck, Red Barber and Mel Allen weren't already dead they would have killed themselves after reading your article."
And here's one from Gerard Meagher, a regular reader of Gardner's column and the owner of the Old Town bar on 18th Street:
"As someone who remembers the great Mel Allen and Red Barber," Mr. Meagher wrote, "please influence these two to switch to the Mets." Mr. Meagher signed off, "You have finally failed me."
So duly noted: Call Sterling and Waldman your favorite announcers, and all hell breaks loose. But, you know what? We don't think Sterling and Waldman are that bad. Sterling, in particular, isn't as bad as he's often characterized. Yes, Sterling's catchphrases are silly and forced — but we'd be lying if we said we didn't giggle while rolling our eyes. And yes, he's drawn out his "Yankees win" call to absurd lengths — listen to how short it was back when David Wells pitched his perfect game in 1998 — but he's hardly the first announcer with a calling card. And though neither is one to embrace a statistic any more advanced than on-base percentage, he and Waldman do know their baseball, having been around the Yankees for decades now. If nothing else, the two have chemistry on the air.
For our money, the most infuriating thing about Sterling — by a wide margin, actually — is his insistence on calling plays before the umpire has made his signal. We'd rather every call be accurate and come a quarter-second later than hear something like, "Lined like a bullet, it's a fair ball! No, it's foul!" ever again.
We wouldn't call Sterling and Waldman our favorite announcers, and to be sure, no one's going to confuse Sterling for Vin Scully. But we wouldn't mind if their contracts were renewed. (Plus, let's be honest: Goofing on Sterling is fun in its own right. We'd miss stuff like this, or this, or this.) And anyway, that Jesus Montero home-run call — such a great name for Sterling to work with! — isn't going to write itself.