John Sterling’s out-of-blues retirement decision leaves Michael Kay shocked

John Sterling and Michael Kay at Yankee Stadium on April 7, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Tuesday April 16, 2024

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Within a few days of saying that he is not sure of his retirement timing, John Sterling, the best-known Yankees voice made a sudden retirement call on Sunday. It came as a surprise to many on the field as well as off the field.

The news of John Sterling’s retirement sparked a wave of curiosity among fans and colleagues alike. His longtime broadcast partner on the YES Network Michael Kay went into tizzy. During his show “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York and YES Network, the sportscaster raised questions over the decision.

“I don’t know why he won’t do one more game just to give people closure,” Kay said about John Sterling. “People want to hear that one final game. They experienced that one final game and they didn’t know it was his one final game.” 

While John Sterling’s decision appears firm, the Yankees will celebrate his remarkable career with a pre-game ceremony on Saturday. The team’s voice will also have the opportunity to interact with fans with a planned visit to the WFAN radio booth during the game.

Kay puzzled over John Sterling’s retirement call

Michael Kay and John Sterling

Kay, along with his co-host Don La Greca, couldn’t help but express a desire for one last “Sterling call.” He even floated the possibility of sharing the booth with John Sterling for a game later in the season on YES.

La Greca acknowledged that John Sterling’s retirement, at 86 years old, wasn’t a complete surprise. Still, there was a general sense of wanting to know exactly when his final curtain call would be. He even pondered whether the overwhelming outpouring of emotion from fans might sway him to consider a one-game return, if offered.

Only time will tell if John Sterling will heed the call for a farewell performance. One thing remains certain: his voice will forever be etched in the memories of generations of Yankee fans.

A look back at John Sterling’s last calls

John Sterling tuns 85 as he prepares for the Yankees vs. Orioles game on July 4, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
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John Sterling, the legendary voice of the Yankees since 1989, hung up his microphone effective immediately. One question loomed large: wouldn’t it be fitting for Sterling to call one last game, offering a chance for closure for fans who might not have realized it was his final broadcast?

John Sterling’s final curtain call as the radio voice of the New York Yankees came quietly on April 7th. The Yankees secured an 8-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, marking the unassuming end of an era.

His final call echoed through the airwaves as he delivered his signature sign-off: “Now the right-hander will deal the payoff. Strike three is called. Ball game over. And Yankees win. The Yankees win. They win it 8-3. They defeat Toronto two out of three and they go 8-2.”

Earlier in that same game, John Sterling treated fans to one last iconic home run call. In the bottom of the third inning, Giancarlo Stanton launched a grand slam, prompting the Yankees voice to break into his melodic, trademark call: “Non dimenticar! That ball sure traveled far! Giancarlo!”  

Speaking with WFAN’s “Evan and Tiki,” John Sterling offered some insight into his retirement decision. He revealed that the idea had been brewing for a while, and expressed some regret for not making the call sooner. Reflecting on his extensive 64-year career and his approaching 86th birthday in July, he acknowledged that the time for retirement had arrived. He openly admitted a diminishing desire to continue the demanding schedule.

“I just don’t want to do any more work,” he said. “I’ve worked for 64 years, and in July I’ll be 86. Let’s face it, my time has come.”

“It wasn’t hard at all. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time,” John said about the decision to retire. “I know the life I want to lead. I just lived it from October to the end of March.

“As I told my kids…now we can have dinner any time.”

“I’m the greatest sports fan in history,” John said. “I’ve got TVs all over the joint…I’m gonna watch and listen to 162 Yankee games.”

While John Sterling’s final days in the booth may have been low-key, his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of generations of Yankee fans who were captivated by his unique voice and passionate calls.

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