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Sunday, July 11, 2010
Yankees announcer Sheppard dies
NEW YORK -- Bob Sheppard, whose elegant introductions of stars from Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium for more than a half century earned him the nickname "The Voice of God," died Sunday. He was 99. The revered public address announcer died at his Long Island home in Baldwin with his wife, Mary, at his side, the Yankees said.
“ Players changed year in and year out; he was the one constant.Sheppard started with the Yankees in 1951 and he last worked at Yankee Stadium late in the 2007 season, when he became ill with a bronchial infection. He recorded a greeting to fans that was played at the original ballpark's final game on Sept. 21, 2008, and his audio recording still is used to introduce Jeter before each at-bat at home by the Yankees captain. Jeter said Sunday he'll continue to use Sheppard's voice as his introduction for each at-bat. "Players changed year in and year out, he was the one constant," Jeter said. "Every time you heard it, you got chills." When the team moved into new Yankee Stadium last year, it honored him by naming the media dining room after him. In a prepared statement, Yankees principal owner George M. Steinbrenner called Sheppard "a good friend and fine man whose voice set the gold standard for America's sports announcers. "For over a half century, fans were thrilled to hear his unforgettable voice and players were thrilled to hear his majestic enunciation of their names," Steinbrenner said. "Bob Sheppard was a great member of the Yankees family and his death leaves a lasting silence. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Mary, and their family." While Sheppard didn't like to give his age, a former Yankees official confirmed in 2006 that Sheppard was born Oct. 20, 1910. The Yankees' lineup for Sheppard's first game on April 17, 1951, included DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Mize, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto. And the opponents that day, the Boston Red Sox, were led by Ted Williams. Sheppard became as much as a fixture in the Bronx ballpark as the familiar white stadium facade or Monument Park, tucked behind the blue outfield wall. On May 7, 2000, after 50 years and two weeks on the job, the team honored him with "Bob Sheppard Day" and put a plaque in his honor in Monument Park. Fans gave Sheppard a standing ovation, and legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite read the inscription. Berra, Reggie Jackson and Don Larsen were among those who stood on the field during the ceremonies. "The voice of Yankee Stadium," read the plaque. "For half a century, he has welcomed generations of fans with his trademark greeting, 'Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium." He also served as the stadium voice of the NFL's New York Giants from 1956-05, and for men's basketball and football at St. John's University, where he taught, for Army football and the Cosmos soccer team. He also announced for the American Football League's New York Titans at the Polo Grounds and the World Football League's New York Stars at Downing Stadium. But baseball is what made him famous. Babe Ruth gave Yankee Stadium its nickname, but Sheppard gave the ballpark its sound. He announced at 62 World Series games and a pair of All-Star games, and introduced more than 70 Hall of Famers across his career. It was one of them, Jackson, who dubbed Sheppard "The Voice of God." "A voice that you hear in your dreams, in your sleep," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Sunday. "Today's a sad day." Sheppard's player introductions remained consistent throughout the decades, with Sheppard imbuing each name and number with a gravitas more in keeping with a coronation than a ballpark outing: "No. 7. Mickey Mantle. No. 7." Or even "No. 58. Dooley Womack. No. 58." "He had the most distinctive voice I've ever heard and he announced my name in my first game," said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, who played 220 games with the Yankees in 1968 and 1969. "It was special when he made the lineup announcement." Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte said his most lasting memory of Sheppard was hearing him announce Jeter -- and then others impersonating it. "When you think of all the great players he has announced, when you think of the old stadium, there is no doubt you think about him and what he had done there for the organization," Pettitte said. "It was cool to hear him announce your name, that's for sure." Unlike the shrill shills of later generations, Sheppard conducted himself with an understated and dignified delivery. He employed perfect diction, befitting a man who considered his real job teaching speech at St. John's. He graduated from the school in 1932 and later worked there for more than 25 years.
” -- Derek Jeter
|Bob Sheppard was honored by the Yankees on May 7, 2000, during his 50th season as the team's stadium announcer.|