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John Sterling appears on 'CenterStage' with Michael Kay on the YES Network

John Sterling chats with Michael Kay during his appearance on "Centerstage." (YES Network)

No audition, no application - how he got the Yankees job
This is one of the lucky things that happen in our nutty business. I got a phone call… in September of '88. From a fellow that you know, Steve Malzberg, at WABC. And he said, "Would you like to do (call) the Yankees?" He told me they have a new general manager and he doesn't like the broadcast team-and they're history at the end of the year. And I said, "Well, does he know who I am?" And he said, "He knows all about you. He listens to you all the time." I didn't have an agent, so I called a buddy of mine, who worked with me on the air, with the Nets, Mike DeTommaso, who's a lawyer. And I said, "Would you call this guy?" And he called him and they made a deal. I never auditioned for the Yankees. Isn't that amazing? What a nutty business. I didn't apply for it and I didn't audition. And I got it right away.

George Steinbrenner giving him a vote of confidence early on ...
The team was very bad. '89, '90, '91, terrible teams, and I said (during a telecast), "Blame the players. They're the ones who are making out. They're the ones who can't get anyone out." So two nights later, we're in Milwaukee and there's a rain delay. And so I'm walking around this maze of booths in this old stadium. And George (Steinbrenner) is sitting in one of the booths. And he stopped me and-think of how good this made me feel-he said to me, "I just want you to know you'll always be the Yankee announcer. And if they try to hire anyone (else), I'll veto it."

The origins of his unique home run calls ...
Well, when I was doing the Nets, Bernard King was the star…the players called him BB, you know, after the guitarist B.B. King. And you know, he would hit a great shot or great drive and I'd say, "Bernard Sky… B.B. King." And then in Atlanta, Dominique (Wilkins) was the star of the Hawks and he'd hit a great shot and I'd say, "Dom-in-ique is mag-ni-fique." Or "Dom-in-ique is ter-rif-fic." And those kind of things caught on with the Yankees. I guess one day Bernie Williams hit one (home run) and I said, "Bern, baby, bern." and that was the beginning of it. Nick Swisher, he hit a home run and I called him Old Jolly Old Saint Nick. And, he didn't like it. He said, "It makes me sound like a fat old man." So, I changed it to, "He's Swishalicious," and he loved that.

A great NY Broadway musical spurred his love of music ...
It was a Saturday afternoon, and my mother and sister were begging me to go to this Broadway show. And I wanted to stay home and watch a ballgame. The show was Kiss Me,
Kate. Cole Porter's greatest work was Kiss Me, Kate. Every single song, just magic. But anyway, in the show, you know, they all sing "Another Op'nin, Another Show." And then the female star came out, a gal named Patricia Morison. And she was having fights with the male star, who was Alfred Drake. And she came on stage and said to him, "You bastard!" Well, I thought that was the greatest thing-I mean, I'm seven years old. I thought that was the greatest thing in the world. And from that time, I was hooked. That one show, not just on being a bastard, but I mean, on loving music. And I have loved it (show tunes), from that point to this day.

While at WMCA Radio in New York, he led efforts to secure hockey rights ...
WMCA then was the most laissez fair station. I said, "You know, I'd like to get hockey on… there's a hockey team in town." And the program director said, "Well, go make a deal." So I went there and I made a deal. We split costs and whatever that was sold. And I had a chance to do hockey. And then, then I got a call from the Knicks to do their radio network, starting in January and February, when Frank Messer, who was doing it, would go down to Florida. All of a sudden I'm so busy, I'm working all the time, and loved it. And then it led to the Nets and Islanders. Every hockey announcer says, "He shoots, he scores," like that's… religion. So I didn't. I try to be ahead of the play, so when the shot would go in, I'd yell "Goal. Islander goal. ISLANDER GOAL." And it caught on. I can recall one game. Sunday afternoon (Nets game), Nassau Coliseum, there's no one there and Dr. J made three or four phenomenal plays. Back to back to back to back. You know, he'd block a shot, drive down court, feed someone, get a rebound, whatever. Kevin Loughery (the new Nets coach) actually called time out just so he could get a cheer.

Once he tossed his car keys to a stranger at an airport ...
And I ran in (to the terminal). They all knew me at this, at this desk. I knew the person, and I had a big Caddy. And I tossed the keys and, and I said, "My car is, you know, right outside (the terminal). Put it somewhere, I have to, I have to make the plane." And they did.

On retiring ...
Well, first thing I have to do is I have to get four kids through college. After they're all through… you know, we'll see. I can't imagine retiring.

On who he would have as dinner guests if he could invite anyone from any time ...
Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, and Noël Coward.

On why radio is a better experience for him ...
Well it's your medium. You do what you want, and you have to paint the picture, which I love doing. And it's just easier… you know, television, you have to follow the pictures.

His early jobs took him to Wellsville (NY), Watertown (NY), Chambersburg (PA), Patchogue (NY) and Providence (RD) ...
It was in a town called Wellsville, New York. It was this tiny station. My first job was $60 a week. And you know, I had to learn how to run turntables and tape machines just before cartridges came in; but opening the mic and talking, I could do on my first day. I loved it. I had a few other small jobs. In Watertown, New York, on radio and TV up there. And then in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and then Patchogue, Long Island. I didn't audition for the Yankee job, but to do a morning disc jockey show in Providence! I must have auditioned five times. They had a sister station in Hartford. I had to go there to audition. And I mean tapes and meetings and auditions.

Later on, it was Baltimore ...
Later on, I went down there (Baltimore) and had a meeting, I couldn't audition. I sent 'em a news tape. And later on, Don Kelly said, "The reason I gave you the job was, you're the only one who told me you were gonna be great." It was a wild, wild show. But I kept putting sports in it, to get a sports rep. And then I got the TV (job) equivalent at-this was Metro Media. And the TV was Westinghouse. So I did, I swear, 9-midnight on radio, and 9-10 in the morning on TV. Can you imagine?

Watch clips from the interview below: