An Unsurpassable Sterling Record of Stamina!
By Ralph Nader
July 10, 2019
I’ve always been fascinated by stamina. Lou Gehrig was my boyhood hero, and not just because of his batting average, clutch hitting, and dignified comportment. From 1925 to 1939 he played 2,130 ballgames in a row, not missing one, despite injuries and illnesses. (It was the record until eclipsed by the Baltimore Oriole’s formidable Cal Ripken in 1987).
Stamina by underdogs over great odds in various areas of lawful human endeavor is engrossing because of all the elements in its making. Focus, determination, resilience, skill, self-renewal, strategy and, at its best, reflective idealism.
Who isn’t fascinated by bee hives, ant colonies, birds and squirrels dutifully building nests, and the sheer alert stamina required of mammals raising their young during constant peril?
This background provides context for contemplating the end of radio’s John Sterling’s record announcing 5,060 straight New York Yankees baseball games without missing one. Since 1989, whether ill or injured, Sterling showed up every day in city after city to command the airwaves and perform his duties. He was undaunted by fatigue or repetition.
As an unreconstructed Yankee fan (from the days of Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle), I did not know about Sterling’s dedication. In between articles on contract negotiations, player trades injuries and modest misbehaviors, the New York Times finally reported this stunning streak of stamina.
It took a bout of exhaustion and his physician’s advice to convince Sterling to take some days off, sleep a lot, eat a little more to recover weight, and drink a gallon of water every day. “I’m just run down,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” the 81 year old radio marathoner told the
Sterling’s record could be more unbreakable than Joe DiMaggio’s still standing 56 game hitting streak.
For five years in the nineteen eighties, the amazing Sterling broadcast both the Atlanta Braves baseball games and the Atlanta Hawks basketball games.
For a game with so many tedious intervals between pitches and innings, Sterling and his co-anchor Suzyn Waldman, make baseball more interesting with their banter, humor, and player vignettes. Sterling has been a unique voice in baseball, calling home runs with rhyming ditties on the hitters’ names and, of course, his breathless game-ending call when “Theeeeeeeeeee Yankeeees Wiin.” For her part, Suzyn keeps tediously reporting the pitch counts and pitch speeds, over batting averages.
The Times wrote that Sterling was going to use his time-off to catch up with a pile of mail, too long ignored. I can resonate with that chore. Neither John nor Suzyn chose to respond to my letter in 2012 regarding the non-stop, irritating, in-play advertising that takes the spirit out of exciting plays. I expressed my sympathy for their having to read these blizzards of ads that interrupt their peak narrative. Such as “Judge’s homerun is brought to you by Kia,” or “this consultation at the mound brought to you” by some law firm. Yeah, sure.
There was no in-play commercial corrosion when their famous predecessor, Mel Allen, used to call the Yankee games on radio. Ballantine Ale, a major sponsor, was promoted only between innings.
In my letter to the heads of the Yankees and Major League Baseball, including former Yankee manager, Joe Torre, I included a detailed listing of these interruptive in-play ads for one whole ball game. Maddening. Why would advertisers want to turn off so many fans?
None of my letters were accorded a response, or even a courteous acknowledgement. (The Times did briefly write up this story).
The Yankee baseball corporation, a corporate welfare king by virtue of its stadium and other tax breaks has been, alas, both censorious and very sensitive to criticism. Recently, John and Suzyn interviewed New York Times sports reporter Bob Klapisch during a ball game. Klapisch is the author of the recently released book Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees. It seemed to be a friendly narrative.
All three were gushing about the genius of long-time Yankee manager Brian Cashman for his brilliant trades that have led to the Yankee’s first place standing in their Division, despite a dozen or more injuries to their starters. Unmentioned were the disastrous and very expensive trades over many years that turned out to be bad deals – getting over-the-hill stars, for instance, by trading away their talented young farm team players plus gobs of cash from Cashman.
For over a decade, Cashman wrecked the celebrated Yankee minor league farm teams that had brought forth the great players like Yogi Berra and Derek Jeter, who won more World Series than any other team. Year after year, under Cashman, the Yankees’ registered failure after failure, despite their superior cash hoard, due mostly to “bad deals” Brian. The one silver lining is that he has proven to both fans and major league baseball that the biggest treasury no longer gets the biggest victories. That was always the “knock” on the Yankees of yore from historic rivals like the Boston Red Sox, still smarting over the sale in 1920 of the great young pitcher – hitter, Babe Ruth to build the dreaded “Bronx Bombers.”
Friends often joke about my rooting for the New York Yankee imperialists– especially during the long period of corporate ownership by loud George Steinbrenner, a jolting, edgy personality whom Donald J. Trump must have studied carefully.
My response: there are some loyalties absorbed by four year old boys that never go away.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – The guest is Gary McCoy, a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what’s causing it and how it can be fixed.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon