Bob Sheppard, who served as the New York Yankees public address announcer for more than half a century, has passed away at the age of 99. Sheppard's dignified delivery was a touchstone for New York baseball fans.
Bob Sheppard died Sunday at his Long Island home with his wife Mary at his side. He had not worked at Yankee Stadium since late in the 2007 season when he became ill with a bronchial infection. But he recorded the player introductions that were used at the final game in the original Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008.
"Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen. Here is the Yankee line-up. At shortstop - number-two, Derek Jeter - number-two," went the announcement.
Bob Sheppard's first game as the Yankee Stadium public address announcer was April 17, 1951. His trademark "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium," greeted generations of fans. His well-enunciated, dignified player introductions remained consistent throughout the years, even in an era of blaring stadium music.
Sheppard said, "A public address announcer should be clear, concise, correct. He should not be colorful, cute or comic." Over the years, he saw a lot of baseball history.
"There are three or four big moments in my career that I can recall," he mused. "Don Larsen's perfect game (1956) has to be up there. Reggie Jackson's three home runs [!977] in a row has to be there, Roger Maris hitting 61 [setting the single season home-run record in 1961] has to be there. And I guess the many, many Yankees victories in World Series," he recollected.
Sheppard's elegant introductions of New York greats from Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to Derek Jeter earned him the nickname "The Voice of God." By the player's request, a tape of Bob Sheppard is still used to introduce Yankees captain Derek Jeter when he comes to the plate in New York. But the years gave Bob Sheppard a sense of perspective.
"At the time that I was doing it, I was impressed by the fact that I introducing people like Joe DiMaggio, Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Johnny Mize and all the other great players of the day. But since then I look back and I see that the players of today are just as good and even perhaps a little bit better than the players of those days," he said.
Sheppard announced 62 World Series games and introduced more than 70 Hall of Famers during his long career.
"I never dreamed back in 1951 about a job that I have held - unbelievably - all these years, and have enjoyed it every time I have come up here," said Sheppard.
He was also the stadium voice for several other sports, most notably the New York football Giants.