Sheppard's voice was unforgettable
The voice was unforgettable. It was deep and resonant, and like Yankee Stadium itself, it was rich with Yankees history. Every time you heard it, you thought of Mantle and Berra, Mattingly and Winfield, Jeter and Pettitte.
Bob Sheppard hadn’t announced a Yankees lineup since 2007, but he will forever be connected to the team’s history, a career in the public address booth that spanned 56 seasons. Sheppard died Sunday at the age of 99, and it’s impossible not to feel the silence in the Bronx.
I knew that voice well. As a Yankees beat writer for The New York Times in the late 1980s, I heard it at every home game. Occasionally, I even watched Sheppard work. He sat alone in his tiny, glass-enclosed booth next to the press box, leaning ever so slightly into the microphone and intoning every player’s name precisely, evenly, clearly. No mistakes, ever.
Between batters, he used to read from a paperback book he brought to most games. Somehow — perhaps it was the noise from the crowd that gave him his cue — he knew when it was time to announce the next batter.
Then, back to his book.
There are only two other public address announcers whose voices are so closely associated with their teams: John Ramsey, who announced Dodgers and Lakers games for many years, and Sherm Feller, whose gravelly Boston accent filled Fenway Park for almost three decades. Now all three are gone.
Sheppard, however, turned the simple act of reading a lineup into an art form. Every syllable was enunciated, every name pronounced accurately. It was no wonder that Reggie Jackson once called it “the voice of God.”
Sheppard announced 62 World Series games and was honored with a plaque at the stadium’s Monument Park in 2000. In what may be the ultimate tribute, shortstop Derek Jeter asked that a Sheppard recording be used to announce his name after the announcer had retired.
It’s been many years since I sat in the press box at the old Yankee Stadium, but certain things remain the same in my mind — the pinstripes, the subway train rumbling in the distance, the sense of history you felt inside the old building and the voice.
Michael Martinez has been managing editor of the National Football Post and covered the Yankees for The New York Times.