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The Voice of God

July 12, 2010
by

Bob Sheppard, the voice of the Yankees, died over the weekend.  He was 99 years old, and for more than five decades he provided (and continues to provide, in my head) the soundtrack to live Yankees baseball.  Rest in peace.

There are lots and lots of obituaries out there, so I have little to add, except to note a few of the choice comments and anecdotes that are being printed today:

“I remember walking in from the bullpen at Yankee Stadium during my major league debut and hearing Bob announce my name. I thought it was the greatest thing. Three years out of high school, and I’m in Yankee Stadium with Bob Sheppard announcing my name. I had arrived! He was a legend who went about his job with a quiet sense of dignity, and we will never see someone of his stature again.”
– Al Leiter

“The Yankees and Bob Sheppard were a marriage made in heaven,” said Paul Sheppard, a 71-year-old financial adviser. “I know St. Peter will now recruit him. If you’re lucky enough to go to heaven, you’ll be greeted by a voice, saying: ‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to heaven!’ ”

“I take great pride in how the names are pronounced,” Sheppard said. He seldom entered the clubhouses, but made certain to check directly with a visiting player if he had any doubt on the correct way to pronounce his name.

“Mick-ey Man-tle” was a favorite of his, but as Sheppard once told The Associated Press: “Anglo-Saxon names are not very euphonious. What can I do with Steve Sax? What can I do with Mickey Klutts?”

He enjoyed announcing the name of the Japanese pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa and the names of Latin players, particularly pitcher Salome Barojas and infielder Jose Valdivielso.

Sheppard feared he would trip over his pronunciation of Wayne Terwilliger, an infielder who played at Yankee Stadium with the Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics in the 1950s. “I worried that I would say ‘Ter-wigg-ler’ but I never did,” he recalled.

Once when he worked a Yankees game and a Giants game in the same day, he welcomed football fans to Yankee Stadium. The lesson, he said, was not to work two different venues in one day. Another time, when President John Kennedy was attending a chilly football game, Mr. Sheppard accidentally spoke into an open microphone, saying: “Why, he doesn’t even have on a topcoat.”

An announcer should be “clear, concise, correct,” he often said—never “colorful, cute or comic.” But inevitably in a league populated by the likes of Ross Moschitto, Jose Valdivielso and Shigetoshi Hasegawa, the occasional error did occur. The first time he announced Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, Mr. Sheppard called him “Posado”—a mistake Mr. Posada could never forget because Mr. Jeter called Mr. Posada “Sado” from then on.

“One day when my wife and I were down in St. Thomas, we went into a restaurant,” Sheppard told The Village Voice in 2002. “I told the waitress, ‘I’ll have the No. 1. Scrambled eggs, buttered toast and black coffee. No. 1.’ My wife looked at me and said. ‘You sound like Jon Miller’s imitation.’ I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I was ordering the same way I’d introduce Billy Martin.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 1:04 pm

    R.I.P.

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  1. In Memoriam « The Half Empty Glass

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