NEW YORK -- John Sterling has called all but two New York Yankees games since taking over as the team's radio play-by-play announcer in 1989. That streak, which began after he missed two games that first season, is about to end.
Feeling a little run down, Sterling will finally take a breather this weekend when the Yankees play a four-game series at Tampa Bay beginning Thursday -- his 81st birthday. Ryan Ruocco will fill in, giving Sterling an eight-day respite that includes the All-Star break next week.
Sterling just got back from London, where the Yankees swept two games from the rival Boston Red Sox over the weekend.
"My ears are clogged up. I can't talk, which is tough on the air," Sterling told The Associated Press before broadcasting Tuesday night's Subway Series opener against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
Sterling has worked 5,059 consecutive Yankees games, including the postseason, according to the team.
"My program director felt it'd be a good time to take some time off," he said.
The popular Sterling is well known for his flamboyant idiosyncrasies, pithy catchphrases -- "it is high, it is far, it is gone!" -- and quirky (some might even say corny) home run calls that he ascribes to particular players.
And when New York closes out a victory: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! The ........ Yankees win!"
Count manager Aaron Boone among Sterling's many fans.
"His voice, his calls, I try to listen to them every night," Boone said. "If I want to see certain plays or highlights, I always love watching them with a John Sterling call. So hopefully it's a few days that allow him to recharge, refresh and be able to do his thing the way he's capable of for the second half."
"I was paid to do the games, and every day I got up and got my tail to the ballpark," Sterling said.
"A little tough with baseball because it is every day. But I can't say -- I never thought it was tough. I don't look back on it as tough. If you say, well, does it hurt that your streak's ending? Not at all."
So, for the first time since '89, the Yankees will play a game Thursday without Sterling in the broadcast booth.
How will he spend his well-earned rest?
"Fall apart," Sterling said with a smile.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.