Back in 1989, I was in the elevator at old Yankee Stadium heading up to the free buffet when I heard that unforgettable voice bellow, "Hold the door, dammit!"
I was in the elevator with George Steinbrenner III.
"Thank you, John," he said.
George Steinbrenner knew my name. Me, John Sterling, a simple 41 year old kid right off the bus from Baltimore, Maryland.
"We all think you are doing a fine job with the broadcasts," he said, "but..."
I thought I was fired.
He continued, "Can you come up with a way to make them more appealing to those idiots that used to like Rizutto?"
I immediately said, "I have this idea that I can embellish my home run calls by making them personal while invoking important, pop culture catch phrases."
He looked at his watch and pressed the Close Door button.
"Sir, I was thinking about something like, 'Tear down that wall, Mr. Pagliarulo!!! Pags goes deep again!!!' or 'Rocky VIII!!! That's the 8th home run of the year for Steve Balboooooni!!!' or maybe, 'Jesse Baaaaaaarfield drives Miss Daisy over the fence!!!"
He looked up from his watch and said, "That sounds interesting. Make sure Mr. Richman okays everything before you say it on the air."
The elevator opened up at the next floor and a horribly disfigured leper dragged herself in with the help of a skinny, male wog. I pressed into the farthest corner filled with dread, but incredibly, Mr. Steinbrenner embraced the women. "Aparajita, it's great to see you!" he cried.
The woman smiled broadly causing a large chunk of her upper lip to crack off and fall to the floor. "Can you believe Mr. Steinbrenner remembers my name? Calcutta seems so far away."
George turned to the youth and asked, "Son, you're in your third year at Florida State, right? How's that accounting degree coming along?"
In broken english the wog replied, "Very good, Sir. Thank you."
The elevator opened at the next floor and the pathetic pair got off. After the doors closed, George turned to me, "I spend a couple of months every year working with the lepers in India but not a word of this to anyone or you're fired and your dog disappears."
"Did you pay for her son's college education?" I asked.
"Yes," he said sheepishly. "Karmjit is a fine young man. They're sitting in my box tonight"
"You're a complicated man, Mr. Steinbrenner," I said.
"Stop kissing my ass, Sterling," he replied. "How about you join me over the All Star break and we help build some houses in East St. Louis for the less fortunate?"
I said yes, and we did.