Friday, July 16, 2010

The Microphone of God - by Peter Schw

The Microphone of God

Since the passing of Bob Sheppard last week, there have been many stories written about the long-time Yankees public address announcer. Many of them dealt with what Reggie Jackson called “The Voice Of God.” Some of them touched on the fact that Sheppard was a true gentleman and also seemed to have a smile on his face. Having covered so many Yankee games over the years, I was one of many people who were lucky enough to meet Sheppard, talk with him, and shake his hand. When having a meal in the press room, I always tried to find a seat next to his table. It’s not that I was trying to eavesdrop on his conversations with others, but the goal was always to just hear that soothing, distinguished voice that I always heard as a kid going to games with my dad.
It was that same voice that I grew to appreciate more and more as I got older and went to games with family and friends. Then, as I made my way in the broadcasting business, one of the fringe benefits of covering so many games was knowing that no matter what happened in the game, and what the clubhouse was like after the game, it would be a day or evening that started with…
“Good Afternoon or Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman and Welcome to Yankee Stadium
There was one night when I got to the Stadium a little later than I wanted to. I ran into the press room with my bag and quickly grabbed a bite to eat. When I was done, I gathered my stuff together, grabbed my bag, and raced to the elevator up to the press box.
That’s when I ran into Sheppard in the hallway by the elevator. That legendary voice then said…
“You seem to be in a hurry young man,” said Sheppard with his trademark smile.
What was pretty neat about that was that those words were only for me and not for 50,000 people. We struck up conversation for a few minutes as we both made our way up to the press box.
As a kid, my lasting Bob Sheppard memories came from the many “Bat Days” that I went to. At some point during the game, Sheppard would ask the young fans in-between innings to raise their bats in the air so that photographers can get a picture.
Then, “The Voice Of God” became “The Voice Of Common Sense” when he said…..
“Now, carefully, put them down.”
I’ll always cherish my many brief conversations with “The Voice of Yankee Stadium,” but my favorite professional moment as it relates to Bob Sheppard had nothing to do with the Yankees at all.
In addition to working for the Yankees, Sheppard was also the public address announcer for other teams including the football Giants and St. John’s Basketball.
In 2007, the New York Red Bulls soccer team contacted me because they needed a fill-in public address announcer at Giants Stadium for a few games. That first night, I was pretty excited as I drove to the Meadowlands. I was going to be a public address announcer for a professional sports game.
Truth be told, there weren’t that many fans at the game but it was still a pretty big moment for me. As I was sitting in booth getting ready for the game, the technician asked me if everything was okay and I said yes. He then said something that made the night a bit more special.
“Not to put any pressure on you,” said the technician. “But you are about the use the same microphone that Bob Sheppard used for many years.”
That was really all that I could think of saying. I was sitting in the same chair and using the same microphone that Sheppard used for Giants games. Now I started to get a little nervous because this was not a Yankees game or a Giants game. It was a soccer game and the powers that be wanted me to be up-tempo and get a little excited in announcing the Red Bulls lineups and goals.
I remembered an interview that Sheppard did a few years back saying how he didn’t care for the modern day “screamers” that served as public address announcers at stadiums and arenas. I couldn’t sound like the Red Bulls regular public address announcer. I just couldn’t bring myself to screaming into Bob Sheppard’s microphone.
I spoke slowly and clearly into that microphone and brought things up just a tad when announcing the Red Bulls’ lineup and goals.
At the end of the night, I felt pretty good about myself. It was another special moment of my career and it connected me with someone that I had respected since I was a boy walking into and out of Yankee Stadium for the first time back in 1972.
I was lucky enough to use that microphone a few more times after that first night. It’s a lasting memory that I will always have of Giants Stadium.
Thanks for the memories Bob! Rest in peace and thanks for inspiring me to do a good job with your microphone!

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