Back in the late 1980s on
assignment for "Yankees Magazine," a stint I
held down for almost 18 years, I entered the
tiny public address booth high up and behind
home plate at Yankee Stadium.
My objective was to do an
interview with the legendary Bob Sheppard.
A cordial and elegant man,
Sheppard took both my hands in his and smiling
told me to take a seat and we would talk. The
game was in progress. He was at work. I was
concerned that my questions would interfere with
his game announcements.
"No problem," he said, "Go right
ahead. I have been doing this for a while now."
He had. His first game was on
April 17, 1951, Opening Day. The lineup at
Yankee Stadium that day was:
Jackie Jensen lf
Phil Rizzuto ss
Mickey Mantle rf
Joe DiMaggio cf
Yogi Berra c
Johnny Mize 1b
Billy Johnson 3b
Jerry Coleman 2b
Vic Raschi p
Looking back at that long ago
profile I did with the former St. John's
quarterback and first baseman, I see that his
favorite Yankee moments included: Larsen's
Perfect Game, Maris hitting 61 home runs,
Reggie's three home runs against the Dodgers and
Mantle's shot almost over the roof.
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle
are on Sheppard's all time favorite list.
"DiMaggio's name was symbolic of the early
Yankees," Sheppard said, "and "Mickey Mantle has
a nice ring to it because the two 'Ms' make it
alliterative. "I just loved announcing his name.
And one day, shortly before he died, we were
both being interviewed on a television program.
All of a sudden, he turned to me and said -
right there on the air - that every time he
heard me announce his name, he got goose bumps.
And I felt the same way about announcing him."
Hundreds of eulogies have been
written and delivered by Sheppard. "They ask me
to do a eulogy. I try to tailor my remarks to
the person I am eulogizing. Thurman Munson, Dick
Howser, Billy Martin. Mickey Mantle's seemed to
strike a cord because he died the night before."
Now the man some call "The Voice
of God" will no longer grace the Yankee mystique
with his voice. Over Thanksgiving the
99-year-old announced his retirement as Public
Address announcer for the New York Yankees:
"I have no plans of coming back," Sheppard said.
"Time has passed me by, I think. I had a good
run for it. I enjoyed doing what I did. I don't
think, at my age, I'm going to suddenly regain
the stamina that is really needed if you do the
job and do it well."
Bob Sheppard surely did his job
well. He was honored with a plaque in Monument
Park on May 7, 2000, commemorating his 50th
season with the Yankees: "For half a century,"
the plaque reads, "he has welcomed generations
of fans with his trademark greeting, 'Ladies and
gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium.' His
clear, concise and correct vocal style has
announced the names of hundreds of players -
both unfamiliar and legendary - with equal
divine reverence, making him as synonymous with
Yankee Stadium as its copper façade and Monument
When I began work on my
"Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and
Narrative History of the House That Ruth Built,"
the first one I thought of to interview and to
write the book's foreword was Bob Sheppard. How
fortunate and honored I was that he agreed to do
Here is the foreword:
Good Afternoon, Ladies and
Gentlemen. Welcome to Yankee Stadium.
By Bob Sheppard
It's hard to believe that almost
60 years have past since I first delivered this
greeting to Stadium fans. I could never have
imagined when I joined the Yankees that I would
be the public address announcer for almost 5,000
games of baseball played on these hallowed
grounds. Although I wasn't a part of the Yankees
during the Ruth-Huggins-Gehrig era, I've been
privileged to announce the names of almost all
of the great baseball stars of the past half
century. Considering that my public address
announcing career as merely been an avocation to
my decades as a professor of public speech, I
find this most remarkable indeed.
From the old days of the Stadium's visage
wrapped with a copper façade and the sounds of
Bronx cheers to the recent days of the Stadium's
visage wrapped with Diamond Vision and the
sounds of "We Will Rock You," the Yankee Stadium
has been the citadel of sport. Where in one
place could so many baseball icons display their
rare talents with such regularity? Where could I
have viewed the transformation of Yankee fans
from the jacket and tie required cognoscenti of
the 50s to today's bleacher creatures. The
public address announcer's chair has afforded me
a virtual front row seat to Mickey Mantle's s
and Reggie Jackson's' towering home runs, Joe
DiMaggio's final year of his brilliant career,
the magic of Don Larsen's and David Cone's
perfect games, 23 World Series & dozens of
playoff contests, Roger Maris' 61st homer
clouted under tremendous pressure from the press
and the fans, the nimble play of Phil Rizzuto,
Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Willie
Randolph, Graig Nettles & Scott Brosius, the
crackling sliders of Whitey Ford & Sparky Lyle,
the dazzling sinkers of Mel Stottlemyre, the
sublime fastballs of Ron Guidry, Rich Gossage, &
Mariano Rivera, the determined perseverance of
Yogi Berra, Gil McDougald, Lou Pinella & Paul
O'Neill, the steady leadership of Thurman Munson
& Don Mattingly, and the recent sheer pleasure
of watching Derek Jeter blossom from raw rookie
into classic Yankee champion. And what other
chair could have given me the opportunity to
observe the strategic and individual brilliance
of Casey Stengel, George Weiss, Ralph Houk, Lee
MacPhail, Gabe Paul, Billy Martin, Gene Michael,
and Joe Torre?
From my cat-bird seats, first in
the loge along the third base line and now from
the press box behind home plate, I've witnessed
the Stadium go from brown & green to white &
blue and now to brand new. Bounties of treasured
events and memories have sprung forth from this
grand cathedral for me and for several
generations of Yankee fans. I extend my thanks
and gratitude to Yankee owners Dan Topping & Del
Webb, CBS & Mike Burke, and George Steinbrenner
for allowing me this opportunity.
As author Harvey Frommer, in
these pages, brings the Yankee Stadium past back
to us in its full and vivid glory, I'll reflect
upon my privileged past and present herein: I
wish to be remembered as an announcer who
carried the dignity and the style of the Yankee
organization and tradition of this magnificent
Stadium through the spoken word. My
clear-concise-correct point-of-view has never
allowed me to be a barker, a rooter, a screamer
or a cheerleader. I've always aspired to be in
harmony with the Yankee gestalt.
Not a bad aspiration and
accomplishment for a professor of public speech
who arrived at the Yankee Stadium as a New York
baseball Giants' fan!
My greatest wish is that the new
Yankee Stadium brings yet another four score and
five years of cherished and exciting memories to
new generations of Yankee fans.
Bob Sheppard added a grace, an
intelligence, an elegance to the New York Yankee
experience. He was one of a kind.