Monday, July 12, 2010

Going Cali With The Captain & The Voice Of God

You may have missed the news yesterday that the man immortalized in Monument Park as "The Voice of Yankee Stadium" died. Bob Sheppard worked full-time for the Yankees as their public address announcer from the 1951 season until he was stricken with an infection late in the 2007 season, which forced him out of action. 1951 was Joe DiMaggio's final season in pinstripes. It was also Mickey Mantle's first season. Sheppard's first game as the P.A. announcer was Opening Day 1951 when DiMaggio's Yankees hosted Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox. Not a bad way to start a new gig; eh?

Derek Jeter is one Yankee who has never been introduced at the Stadium by anyone other than Sheppard. Even after Sheppard was no longer able to come to work and someone else took over his job as the P.A. announcer, Jeter requested that an audio tape of Sheppard introducing him still be used - not out of disrespect to Sheppard's successor but out of respect to Sheppard. I read on-line yesterday that Jeter intends to keep on using Sheppard's taped introduction of him for every at-bat he has at Yankee Stadium for the rest of his career. Jeter will be playing Tuesday night in Anaheim in the All-Star Game. Major League Baseball announced on Sunday that all of Jeter's at-bats will be announced by Sheppard. Sheppard spent fifty-six years as the P.A. announcer for the Yankees. That seems to be a hell of a long time to wait to take one's show on the road. Tuesday night he will introduce a Yankee player at a non-home game for what I believe shall be the first time ever.

In addition to getting to hear Sheppard at Yankee Stadium for years, if you were a fan of the New York football Giants you got to hear him when he served as their P.A. announcer as well. I used to love hearing him during home games at Giants Stadium when I was a kid. As the P.A. announcer in football, he used to announce the results of a particular play in addition to the pre-game introductions. I used to get a kick out of the way that he used to not simply say, "tackled by" a particular player. Rather, ball carriers were "spilled by Taylor", "jarred by Carson" and so forth.

Bob Sheppard was part of the fabric of Yankee Stadium for more than a half-century. His bust is in Monument Park - as it should be -with other Yankee legends. Reggie Jackson referred to Sheppard as "The Voice of God".

If Jackson was right, then introductions at the Pearly Gates are about to be elevated to never-before-scaled heights. And the thought that while he is doing his gig up there, Jeter will ensure that his voice shall remain heard at Yankee Stadium for as long as the Captain is wearing pinstripes. I hope that hearing two different voices doing player introductions over the course of the next several years prompts some of the fans in the stands to ask who that is introducing Jeter. It may very well encourage them to learn about Sheppard and all he meant to the Yankees and to the folks who had the pleasure of hearing him do his job. On Sunday, watching an interview that had been done with Sheppard in 1998, I saw him tell his interviewer that he never got up to to work. Instead, every day he got to go to the Stadium and watch a game.

Not bad work if you can get it. And if you do it well, maybe just maybe you can get to do it for more than fifty years.


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