Report: Bob Sheppard retiring

sheppard_320_040109.jpgBy Jon Lane
The new Yankee Stadium will never sound like the venerable original building. In fact, Yankees games period will never sound the same again.

The New York Times‘ Jack Curry is reporting that Bob Sheppard has decided to retire as the Yankees’ public address announcer, a position he held proudly and executed with dignity since 1951

A bronchial infection forced Sheppard to miss all of last season, including Yankee Stadium’s final game on September 21, and was to keep him home for the new Stadium’s Opener on April 16.

Former Yankees and New York Jets broadcaster Paul Olden will work the Yankees’ exhibition games against the Cubs Friday and Saturday.

“I think Bob just wants to take it easy and no longer have the pressure of, ‘Can he? Will he? Or won’t he?'” Paul Doherty, a friend of Sheppard, told Curry in an e-mail message. “And, at 98, who can blame him?”

I’ll be back later with some memories of Sheppard, often imitated but never duplicated, and a look back at his first game on April 17, 1951.

_______________________

Where do I begin talking about Bob Sheppard? Well, Peter Abraham reports the Yankees said news of Sheppard’s retirement is news to them and not official, but it’s a safe bet that barring one of the Yankees’ dramatic and theatrical surprise appearances in the mold of Billy Martin and Roger Clemens, you won’t be hearing Sheppard’s voice in the new park. Thus, time to share a few anecdotes on who is forever a Yankees legend.

I could start with April 17, 1951, when he entered the limelight as the voice of Yankee Stadium, but I’ll wait. Instead, I start at Sheppard’s days as a speech professor at St. John’s University. My father-in-law worked at Suffolk County Federal Bank in Babylon, N.Y. The bank offered speech courses to better serve its customers. On the side, Sheppard taught those courses with my father-in-law as one of his students. Well before Sheppard became a Yankees institution, he was a man of class who once said that being a Professor of Speech is far more important than his work as an announcer.

That lineup on 4/17/51, Opening Day against the Red Sox, included future Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. The Yankees defeated who years later would become their bitter rivals, 5-0, on the only day when DiMaggio and Mantle shared an Opening Day outfield.

I first met Sheppard in the Yankees dugout before Game 1 of the 1997 Division Series. I knew who he was (who didn’t?) but it was the first time I was able to place a face to Yankee Stadium’s booming, dignified and impeccable “Voice of God.” He greeted me as “young fella” and although he wasn’t as open to the media at that time — he politely declined an interview request about the playoff experience at Yankee Stadium — we spent about 10-15 minutes talking about the Yankees and their history. It was the first day he met me, yet were were talking like old chaps at the watering hole after a day’s work.

In subsequent years I ran into Sheppard either in the Stadium cafeteria – he’d be making a cup of Joe before heading up to his office — or more likely waiting for the elevator. On days I wasn’t on a tight deadline, I’d head for the clubhouse with less than two outs in the ninth inning and the game in hand to avoid the mass exodus from reporters and fans alike. Sheppard would be there too, except he’d be ready to bolt straight for the parking lot, into his car and on the highway back to Baldwin, N.Y. (the south shore of Long Island). Every hello was the same: with a warm, wide smile, quick thoughts on the game and pleasantries until next time.

Earlier I wrote Sheppard was one often imitated but never duplicated, which is one of fame’s highest honors. Still, a couple tried. One was Reggie Jackson, who after a game was making small talk with reporters until breaking into his best routine.

Another was Derek Jeter. The captain’s was not as good as Reggie’s but holds Sheppard in high enough regard that he had his ntroduction recorded on tape before his at-bats. For all of last season, every time Jeter walked to the batter’s box, you’d hear Sheppard’s voice ring, “Now batting for the Yankees, Number 2, De-rek Je-ter.”

It’ll be interesting to hear some of the Yankees’ takes on Sheppard’s retirement. Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and others all had their name called by Sheppard, like so many of the game’s greats, as well as those just passing through. Alas, with all due respect to Paul Olden or whomever is chosen to sit in Sheppard’s chair, Posada said it best in an interview last March.

“Yankee Stadium is Bob Sheppard.”

There will never be another.

16 Comments

Sorry to hear that. Good luck to him!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

God bless you Bob Shepard, ‘the Voice of God.’ The new Stadium will now never be the same as the old. But thank you for a lifetime (mine) of very special work. Live long and well my friend.

Thanks for the memories. Hope that your recorded voice will still announce Derek Jeter.

I’ll never forget hearing Bob Sheppard’s, booming and wonderful voice at a June 1952 Yankees vs. Detroit game. In those days when announcing Yogi Berra in his great and magnificent voice one would hear, “now batting for the Yankees, number 8, Larry Berra, catcher, number 8”. Years later he changed it to “Yogi”. Jorge Posada was spot on saying “Yankee Stadium is Bob Sheppard”. Over the years the pleasure of hearing Mr. Sheppard’s voice just became part of the Yankee Stadium experience. I, and surely legions of others will always associate Bob Sheppard with Yankee Stadium. God Bless you Bob Sheppard, you will be missed.
Bob C.

I’ll never forget hearing Bob Sheppard’s, booming and wonderful voice at a June 1952 Yankees vs. Detroit game. In those days when announcing Yogi Berra in his great and magnificent voice one would hear, “now batting for the Yankees, number 8, Larry Berra, catcher, number 8”. Years later he changed it to “Yogi”. Jorge Posada was spot on saying “Yankee Stadium is Bob Sheppard”. Over the years the pleasure of hearing Mr. Sheppard’s voice just became part of the Yankee Stadium experience. I, and surely legions of others will always associate Bob Sheppard with Yankee Stadium. God Bless you Bob Sheppard, you will be missed.
Bob C.

I just keep on remembering my first time at Yankee Stadium. When Derek Jeter came up to the plate and hear him announce it. I am not going to even try to immitate it because he is a complete legend. I wish the best to him and hopefully he can see the Yankees win the title this year
Nick
Monument Park Talk
http://monumentpark.mlblogs.com

Yankees website says Sheppard’s not retiring. They say they talked to Sheppard, who claims the report is false. I hope it is.

Sheppard should have a place in Monument Park with an honorary tribute or plaque where one can push a button and some headphones and always hear his announcing some of the Yankee greats. If he had a number, it should be retired. He should have a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s that great.
Aaron
http://mlbtribefan.mlblogs.com

If God is a Yankee fan he will give us and him one last shot

The Yankees should have a Bob Sheppard’s day a.s.a.p.
Noboby deserves it more .
He will be missed.
Thanks Bob for all the memories!

The Yankees should have a Bob Sheppard’s day a.s.a.p.
Noboby deserves it more .
He will be missed.
Thanks Bob for all the memories!

Mike K. needs to go on a diet!!!, my god he’s grown over the winter.

Reggie Jackson said that hearing Bob Sheppard announce your name is like hearing “the voice of God”. That says it all! God bless Bob Sheppard.

My husband and I met Bob Sheppard at the Sandpebble Condominium where he and his wife were vacationing at Hutchinson Island – Jensen Beach, Fl. This was back in 1993. His personality was like a magnet — we will never forget him. God Bless you, Bob!!!
Jean & Marv Raguse, Jackson, Michigan

My husband and I met Bob Sheppard at the Sandpebble Condominium where he and his wife were vacationing at Hutchinson Island – Jensen Beach, Fl. This was back in 1993. His personality was like a magnet — we will never forget him. God Bless you, Bob!!!
Jean & Marv Raguse, Jackson, Michigan

I had the pleasure of having Bob Sheppard as my Speech Professor at St John’s University in my first semester of pharmacy school in 1977. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever had. I will always remember how Bob insisted we have perfect diction and speak clearly each week when we each did our speeches in front of the class. Bob encouraged us each week and he gave me the experience and the confidence to do public speaking. It is an experience I will never forget. Thank you Bob. I will always remember you. Maryanne Godlewski, RPh, New York

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