Originally written on Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest  |  Last updated 10/15/14
I decided to do something different for the Yankees-Rays Opening Day game by listening to a couple of innings of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on WCBS 880. The due referred to as “Ma and Pa Kettle” by Bob Raissman of the Daily News, is always under fire. They are obvious homers, very un-fundamental in their broadcast style, and appear to, at times, have trouble seeing the action on the field. Sterling’s over-the-top home run calls have become a part of baseball lore. I don’t listen to much baseball on the radio anymore – Mets, Yankees or otherwise – as part of my job here is to provide analysis, and I don’t feel that radio allows me to do that quite as well. When you add in all the video replay that MLB.com offers instantly, there is also tons of ways to interact with the game before radio. What’s funny is my introduction to baseball as a kid was more on the radio than television. Interestingly enough, when I do listen to the Yankees on 880, I always come away with a laugh. I particularly love when Sterling announces “angry” during those rare periods of Yankee ineptitude. He was in rare form on a Sunday night in 2007, when the Yankees were struggling and on the verge of being swept by Boston. He came across as if it was an “affront” for the team to be wasting his time. I don’t know if I ever heard him as disgusted in the last 17 years. You then have Waldman, who talks about the team in a way you would expect your grandmother to while watching her grandkids play sandlot ball; always in a personal and loving manner. You would think that A-Rod, Teixeira and Jeter were related to her. Instead of disliking Sterling and Waldman, like many outside the Yankees Universe, I come to actually enjoy their games. Friday afternoon was no different, as rode the treadmill during the 7th and 8th innings of the game in Tampa; I have never laughed so much during a workout before. For those that never have listened to the duo, think of an elderly couple sitting on the porch watching a game. It’s clear they do this often, and take the results of the game personally. During the 45 minutes I listened, Sterling blew a Mark Teixeira home run call (the ball was foul) and became agitated by a Carlos Pena hit and run single against the shift. Waldman was conducting a sermon on “cowbell rays” when discussing an upcoming Tampa promotion where the fans will receive a cowbell upon entering the park. Mark Feinsand of the Daily News corrected her from the press box mid-inning, telling her the proper term for a cowbell ray (I can’t find it or remember it), but it turned out all of them are wrong. According to Big League Stew, the entire Tampa Bay cowbell movement was borne out of the famous Saturday Night Live “More Cowbell” skit starring Christopher Walken. That’s not the point, but the discussion of this during a half-inning of a close ballgame just tells you what type of broadcast I was experiencing. The point where I laughed out loud, literally, was when Sterling said after the Pena hit and run single that “If Pena can do it, and David Ortiz can do it, why can’t the Yankees?” The shift has become a hot topic in Yankee-universe this weekend, and Sterling seems agitated the Bombers have been befuddled by it. He made it seem as fundamental as laying down a bunt. It’s hard to describe my experience in words. You have to listen to this duo to truly understand what I am talking about. There has been talk in recent years of 880 replacing Sterling and Waldman with a more traditional booth. I would be very disappointed by such a development. The Yankees are phony and corporate in just about every facet of their operation. The radio booth is the one place where I feel I can actually “touch and feel” the organization. I rarely use the word “charm” when discussing the Bombers. That is, however, how I would sum up John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman doing play-by-play on the radio.
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