Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bob Sheppard, "The Voice of Yankee Stadium"; 1910-2010

I was saddened to hear the news earlier today of the passing of Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard, age 99, who for nearly 60 years graced The Stadium with his velvet tones and precise, concise pronunciation and articulation. There was no shouting, no grandstanding, no lunacy....just a distinguished voice that seemed to come from another realm.

He began his career in 1951, when a young rookie named Mantle joined the Yankees; also on the roster were Rizzuto, Berra, and DiMaggio. When he called his final Yankee Stadium game on September 5, 2007 names like Joba Chamberlain and Robinson Cano, as well as "The Core Four"- Jorge Posada, Andy Petitte, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter- were in pinstripes.

I saw many games at Yankee Stadium over the years, and heard Bob Sheppard's voice announce each at bat and pitching change. But there was one very out of the ordinary game Sheppard worked that only about 6,000 people ever saw; there was no TV, and only a small radio audience.

About six years ago on a Saturday night at Waterfront Park in Trenton, I was in the stands watching the Thunder play an Eastern League opponent (I don't remember who), when over the PA system came the familiar Voice of Yankee Stadium...or was it?

"Nice Bob Sheppard impression", I thought. After all he had been at Yankee Stadium calling the day game that ended after 4 PM. He's over 90 years old, he would have to literally fly from the Bronx to Trenton in less than three hours. And besides, why would he be here, doing the public address of a Trenton Thunder game?

The regular announcer did the breaks between innings, with the contests and dizzy bat races, and Chase the Golden Retriever acting as "bat dog", and "Boomer" the mascot leading the cheering kids.....but player intros were done by "The Guy Who Sounded Like Bob Sheppard".

However.... in the eighth inning an announcement was made by the regular announcer regarding that night's "special guest announcer".

The Voice was indeed the real Bob Sheppard, bringing just a little bit of Yankee Stadium's magic and ambiance to Trenton and the Double A Eastern League. Who woulda thunk it?

Mr. Sheppard also worked New York Giants home games for many years, from Yankee Stadium to the Yale Bowl to old Giants Stadium. He gave that job up in 2005.

Below, a video tribute from a fan, featuring the words of Joe Torre, Whitey Ford, Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, and Reggie Jackson.

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