Bob Sheppard, 1910-2010

We note with sadness the death, at 99, of longtime Yankee announcer Bob Sheppard, and of the era he helped to define.

From his New York Times obituary:

From the last days of DiMaggio through the primes of Mantle, Berra, Jackson and Jeter, Sheppard’s precise, resonant, even Olympian elocution — he was sometimes called the Voice of God — greeted Yankee fans with the words, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Yankee Stadium.”

“The Yankees and Bob Sheppard were a marriage made in heaven,” said his son Paul Sheppard, a 71-year-old financial adviser. “I know St. Peter will now recruit him. If you’re lucky enough to go to heaven, you’ll be greeted by a voice, saying, ‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to heaven!’ ”

In an era of blaring stadium music, of public-address announcers styling themselves as entertainers and cheerleaders, Sheppard, a man with a passion for poetry and Shakespeare, shunned hyperbole.

“A public-address announcer should be clear, concise, correct,” he said. “He should not be colorful, cute or comic.”

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2 Comments

  1. Dan says

    I have a Bob Sheppard story but oddly enough no one has approached me about writing a eulogy. I’ll share it here, unsolicited, anyway.

    Growing up a Mets fan, I never held any special reverence for Mr. Sheppard. My feelings for him were completely indifferent until we crossed paths in 1992 and I learned to hate his deep, deliberate style of annunciation. “Clear, concise, correct?” Not to me, Bob.

    You see, Mr. Sheppard and I both hail from a small town in Long Island called Baldwin. We met at the 1992 Baldwin District Spelling Bee – he as the celebrity announcer/word reader, me as the representative from Brookside elementary. The winner would move on to the Nassau County Bee (and eventually onto the huge National Spelling Bee that has become a huge event and is televised on ESPN). I’m not sure if Mr. Sheppard’s involvement was a yearly thing or if I was just lucky to be 12 the year he decided to throw his hat into the spelling world, but either way, he dashed my hopes of spelling stardom.

    After a few well-spelled words and several of my competitors were ousted, I approached the mic for another round. Mr. Sheppard gave me my next word: “tuuuurgiiiii….,” trailing off without a discernable end. I asked for a definition since I was totally stumped. Mr. Sheppard replied “Swollen or distended, as from a fluid.” “Turgic?” I hazarded, looking for some clarification before I got down to the actual spelling. “Yes, tuuuuuuurgiiiiiiiii…” was his response, so I safely assumed that I understood the way the word sounded and could guess at the spelling. “Turgic: T-U-R-G-I-C. Turgic.” Mr. Sheppard informed me that my answer was incorrect and instructed me to join the other fallen spellers at the back of the stage.

    I can’t say that I was crushed or that I had any illusions of winning the competition, but I was upset to learn that the word that got me was actually turgid. Sure it was a word I’d never heard of, but I know I could have spelled it correctly had I been given a fair shake. This is my lasting memory of Bob Sheppard – a man loved and respected for his vocal clarity and impeccable pronunciation, but completely unable to say the word turgid. I guess it’s not a word that comes up much when announcing starting lineups, but I’m not bitter anymore.

    I forgive you, Bob and hope that wherever you are, you’ve gotten over your terrible speech impediment.

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Good Heavens, Dan, what a heartbreaking story. I can see why you’ve been taking it out on our students ever since…

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink