Bob Sheppard, 99

Bob Sheppard dies at 99; Yankee Stadium announcer was known as the 'Voice of God'

"When you think of Yankee Stadium, he's the first thing that comes to mind," shortstop Derek Jeter once said of Bob Sheppard.
"When you think of Yankee Stadium, he's the first thing that comes to mind," shortstop Derek Jeter once said of Bob Sheppard. (Ray Stubblebine - Reuters)
By Mason Levinson
Monday, July 12, 2010

Bob Sheppard, 99, the Yankee Stadium announcer known as the "Voice of God" for his resonant introductions of baseball players from Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter, which echoed within the Bronx ballpark and carried well beyond to the elevated subway platforms, died July 11 at his home in Baldwin, N.Y. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Sheppard's perfect diction and unhurried intonations made their debut at the Yankees' season opener of April 17, 1951, and were heard at every Opening Day game until April 11, 2006, when he dislocated his artificial hip.

A bronchial infection led to a long hospital stay at the end of the 2007 regular season, and the Yankees said he never returned to announce another game. By then, Mr. Sheppard's voice had reverberated in New York's most famous stadium for more than half a century and in more than 4,400 games.

"Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen," he would demand, whether asking fans to rise for the national anthem or to note: "Now batting for the Yankees, the shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2." A recording of his introduction of Jeter plays at the shortstop's request and has since Mr. Sheppard's absence in 2007.

Fans and players alike paid heed to Mr. Sheppard's deep voice. "When you think of Yankee Stadium, he's the first thing that comes to mind," Jeter said in April 2006. "It's not right playing here unless he's the one that's announcing." Nor were Mr. Sheppard's admirers limited to the Yankees. "Just hearing your name over the public-address system gives you a shot of adrenaline," said ex-Met Mike Piazza, who swatted a home run at Yankee Stadium in 2000.

Mr. Sheppard was a New York high school speech teacher when he was hired as a public-address announcer for pro football games at Yankee Stadium in the late 1940s. He shifted to Yankees baseball after being assured it wouldn't interfere with his teaching career.

"The first rule of being a good public-address announcer is to have a steady job on the outside," he said.

Robert Leo Sheppard, who grew up in the New York borough of Queens, consistently refused to disclose his age; New York voter records listed his date of birth as Oct. 20, 1910.

In addition to the Yankees, Mr. Sheppard was the public-address announcer for the New York Giants football team from 1956 until he retired after the 2005 season. He played varsity football and baseball for St. John's University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in speech in 1932. He also received a master's degree in speech from Columbia University.

Mr. Sheppard was the chairman of the speech department of John Adams High School in Queens before becoming a professor of speech at St John's.

He took equal pride in his longevity as an announcer and in adhering to a "clear, concise, correct" style behind the microphone. "You name it, I did it, and without emotion," he said, "which is amazing when you think about the public-address announcers in the world today. They are screamers."

-- Bloomberg News

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