by Harold Friend
Lou Gehrig is the ultimate role model. He possessed the qualities that most individuals strive to achieve to make themselves better people. Lou Gehrig was honest, a hard-worker, loyal, modest, respectful to others, and self-effacing. He shunned the spotlight, and others often overshadowed even his greatest baseball achievements.
Lou Gehrig and the Yankees' Image
The New York Yankees attempt to project Lou Gehrig as the team's image. In some ways, it is a valid comparison, but its television and radio announcers, who are referred to as "commentators" or "personalities", present the real face of a team. Since 1989, John Sterling (a.k.a. Harold Moskowitz) has broadcast Yankees' games on the radio.
John Sterling is the Antithesis of Lou Gehrig
John Sterling is the antithesis of Lou Gehrig. To refer to Mr. Sterling as "self-effacing" is similar to categorizing a Bentley as an economy car. Mr. Sterling is a hard-worker who has not missed a broadcast during his time with the Yankees, which some listeners might consider to be a negative until they remember the identity of Mr. Sterling's broadcast companion, but the Yankees' announcer shares little else with Lou Gehrig. Mr. Sterling has accurately been described as smug, haughty, and condescending.
John Sterling Does Not Shun the Spotlight
Unlike Lou Gehrig, Mr. Sterling does not shun the spotlight. When he tells listeners that the Yankees have won, he shouts so loud that he cannot control his body, The experience is "The Sterling Shake." The spotlight belongs to Mr. Sterling, not to the Yankees.
The Yankees Win and by the Way, It Was a Perfect Game
When David Wells pitched a perfect game, the first words Mr. Sterling uttered after Wells retired the Twins' Pat Meares for the final out was to shout that the Yankees had won. He had to follow HIS script even when a perfect game was pitched. Unless the pitcher's name is Harvey Haddix, the chances are pretty good that if a pitcher pitches a perfect game, his team wins.
The Eyes of the Listeners
A radio play-by-play announcer sees the game for his listeners. He must get fans into the flow of the game, set the stage as the game unfolds, and of greatest importance, provide accurate descriptions of what occurred on the field.
Typical Sterling Calls
John Sterling has been accused to broadcasting two games - the game on the field and the game that he calls. A recent example that serves as a template was in a game against the Twins on May 16. Mr. Sterling told his listeners that Hideki Matsui's fly ball to right that bounced into the seats was a game tying home run.
It is inexcusable. The Yankee fans think the Yankees have tied the game. But suddenly, Matsui is on second base and their team is still trailing in the eighth inning. The entire flow of the game and mindset of the listeners have been disrupted. If wrong calls by Mr. Sterling were a rarity, it could be forgiven, but that is not the case.
Some things written about Mr. Sterling are not nice, but they may be true. Last July it was reported that a worker in the Yankee Stadium press dining room was upset when Mr. Sterling dipped his finger into the ice cream at the dessert table. It was also reported that he used the same spoon repeatedly to take samples of ice cream.
Fans can live with Mr. Sterling allegedly having poor manners. It is poor taste to report how Mr. Sterling prefers to eat ice cream, but it is not in poor taste to point out his lack of competency in broadcasting Yankees games.
The image that the Yankees like to present to the world becomes more of a myth every time John Sterling tries to describe what is happening on the field.