Yankees Legendary P.A. Announcer Dead At 99 - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Yankees Legendary P.A. Announcer Dead At 99

NEW YORK (AP) - 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.

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.

When the team moved into new Yankee Stadium last year, it

honored him by naming the media dining room after him.

While Sheppard didn't like to give his age, a former Yankees

official confirmed in 2006 that Sheppard was born Oct. 12, 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."

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.

"A P.A. announcer is not a cheerleader, or a circus barker, or

a hometown screecher," the epitome of the old-school style once

said. "He's a reporter."

Sheppard's favorite Yankee Stadium moment was Larsen's perfect

game in the 1956 World Series, but his dulcet tones defined New

York sports for the second half of the 20th century and beyond. He

also was the stadium announcer for the "greatest football game

ever played," the Baltimore Colts' 23-17 sudden-death victory over

the Giants in 1958.

He was on hand when Roger Maris hit home run No. 61, when

Jackson hit three homers in a single World Series game, when the

Giants finally reached the Super Bowl. He never missed an opening

day at Yankee Stadium from 1951 until a hip injury sidelined him in

2006.

Sheppard, who followed the Giants across the Hudson River when

they moved to New Jersey, received a ring after the team won its

first Super Bowl in the 1986 season; it complemented his Yankees'

World Series jewelry. His football calls covered the Giants from

Frank Gifford through Tiki Barber.

While few might have recognized Sheppard in person, his voice

was unmistakable. Once, while ordering a Scotch and soda at a bar,

Sheppard watched as heads turned his way. He often read at Mass,

and was subsequently greeted by parishioners noting he sounded

exactly like the announcer at Yankee Stadium.

"I am," he would reply.

At his Yankees debut, the first name Sheppard announced was

DiMaggio - Dom DiMaggio, the center fielder for the Red Sox. The

Yankees' lineup included five Hall of Famers: Mantle, Joe DiMaggio,

Berra, Mize and Rizzuto; the Sox had three more, Williams, Bobby

Doerr and Lou Boudreau.

His favorite names to announce, in order, have been Mantle,

Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Salome Barojas, Jose Valdivielso and Alvaro

Espinoza. He preferred the names of Latin players.

"Anglo-Saxon names are not very euphonious," he said. "What

can I do with Steve Sax? What can I do with Mickey Klutts?"

But it wasn't the players who made Sheppard's work special.

"Mr. Sheppard could read Eminem lyrics and make them sound like

the Magna Carta," Clybe Haberman wrote in The New York Times five

years ago.

While he didn't like to reveal his age, it could be pinpointed

because he was the quarterback of St. John's football team from

1928-31. The left-hander was a first baseman for the university in

the springtime.

Sheppard began his announcing career at an exhibition football

game, which led to a job with the long defunct Brooklyn Dodgers of

the All-American Conference in 1947. When they folded a year later,

he was hired by the football New York Yankees, who played at Yankee

Stadium.

Management with the baseball Yankees liked his approach, and

Sheppard was on board for opening day in 1951.

Even the players treated Sheppard with a degree of reverence.

Mantle once said that every time Sheppard introduced him, he felt

goose bumps. "Mickey, so did I," Sheppard responded quietly.

Sheppard, while proud of his work with the Yankees, also was

known for his speaking as a church lector. He taught priests how to

give sermons.

"I electrified the seminary by saying seven minutes is long

enough on a Sunday morning. Seven minutes. But I don't think they

listened to me," he told The Associated Press in 2006. "The

best-known speech in American history is the Gettysburg Address,

and it's about four minutes long. Isn't that something?"

He said one of his most challenging tasks as a teacher was when

Jackson needed help with his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1993.

Jackson planned to speak for 40 minutes, and Sheppard implored him

to cut.

"Too much you," Jackson said slowly, mimicking Sheppard's

voice.

When Sheppard missed the 1997 division series, ending his streak

of 121 consecutive postseason games worked at Yankee Stadium, he

was replaced by Jim Hall, his longtime sub. Paul Olden took over

when the Yankees moved to the new ballpark in 2009.

In addition to his wife, Sheppard is survived by four children.

A wake will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with the funeral

Thursday in Baldwin.

 

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

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