The “voice of God” is to be no more at Yankee Stadium, and that is our loss.
Since April 17, 1951, Bob Sheppard, the speech professor from St. John’s University, has been the voice of the Yankees as their PA announcer covering some 4,500 games.
Last week, at the age of 99, he announced that he does not expect to be back for 2010. Due to illness, he has worked little since 2007.
Still, so important was Sheppard to Yankee captain Derek Jeter that even when Sheppard was not at the park, Jeter asked that a recording of Sheppard’s voice be used introducing his at-bats.
Fittingly, Sheppard’s first game in 1951 featured the Red Sox at the old Yankee Stadium. Here are the lineups Sheppard intoned that day.
Boston / New York
Dom DiMaggio, CF / Jackie Jensen, LF
Billy Goodman, RF / Phil Rizzuto, SS
Ted Williams, LF/ Mickey Mantle, RF
Vern Stephens, 3B/ Joe DiMaggio, CF
Walt Dropo, 1B / Yogi Berra, C
Bobby Doerr, 2B / Johnny Mize, 1B
Lou Boudreau, SS/ Billy Johnson, 3B
Buddy Rosar, C / Jerry Coleman, 2B
Billy Wright, P / Vic Raschi, P
Not bad for a first game. There are eight Hall of Famers-to-be, a Jensen for the Yankees who would star later with the Sox, the brothers DiMaggio and a Splendid Splinter.
Sheppard is a dignified, humble man of immediate stature. I always walked down the hall of the press box when I did games in New York just to say hello.
He told me he listened when I broadcast the Mets, especially when he drove home from Yankee games and the Mets were a late start on the West Coast. He said that to make me feel good. Bob Sheppard is like that.
One day I asked for a picture with him and he was honestly shocked and moved.
So was I.
During the years of 1967-1993, Sheppard’s counterpart at Fenway was the beloved Sherm Feller. Sheppard, the dignified, aristocratic, gentile voice and Feller the song writing, gravel- toned New England scrabbled Bostonian.
They were teamed with two of the game’s most recognized organists, John Kiley at Fenway and Eddie Layton in New York.
They both were imitated by a world of admirers. For Sheppard, the game began with, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium.”
For Feller, yes, that’s right, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park, Boston.”
Feller died in 1994. Sheppard will now assume his role as a Yankee fan at home.
“I have no plans of coming back,” Sheppard told MLB.com this week. “Time has passed me by, I think. I had a good run for it. I enjoyed doing what I did.”
Bob, if you enjoyed the run half as much as we did, you win.