Ladies and Gentleman, heaven has a new PA man, and God has his voice back.
Bob Sheppard, who served as Yankees’ public address announcer from 1951 until 2007, has died at the age of 99. Sheppard, whose majestic, dignified and authoritative tones came to be known as the “Voice of God”, had been battling a variety of illnesses, but no word has been released as to the official cause of death. Sheppard officially announced his retirement at the end of the 2009 season.
For many Yankee fans, Sheppard’s almost haunting voice became as much a part of the Yankee Stadium experience as seeing legendary players ranging from Mickey Mantle to Derek Jeter. For that reason, Sheppard was honored with a plaque in Monument Park on his 50th anniversary with the team. In addition, Sheppard’s voice lives on each time Jeter comes to the plate. After Sheppard was forced to take leave from his role as PA announcer in 2007, the Yankee short stop requested that he be introduced by the recorded voice of Sheppard, and that practice continues to this day.
Sheppard’s role with the Yankees was so significant that he doesn’t need a plaque or a recording to keep his memory alive. For generations, Yankees fans will tell their children about Sheppard, just as they have passed down stories about the team’s other legendary figures. After all, Sheppard’s voice is in entwined with so many great and tragic moments in Yankees history. From World Series games, to Old Timer’s Day theatrics to the solemn occasion of Thurman Munson’s death, Sheppard has presided over the Yankees universe with an air of dignity worthy of its creator.
The Yankees organization has been very lucky to have had so many iconic figures in what normally are mundane roles. Eddie Layton, the organist, Robert Merrill, the anthem singer, and now Sheppard, the master of ceremonies, have all passed and taken with them a part of Yankee Stadium. Their memories certainly live on, but for fans who grew up when they were fixtures, each one’s passing has closed the book on another chapter of their youth.
For all his accomplishments as Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner deserves most credit for turning the Yankees from U.S. Steel into a family run business, albeit a dysfunctional one at times. Not only has the Yankee family included a litany of both loyal and prodigal players, managers and executives, but also the likes of Layton, Merrill, the Scooter and Sheppard. These men were not just employees, but members of the family. In addition to Steinbrenner, trainer Gene Monihan can also trace his roots to the Yankee family tree, but both of those men have seen their own mortality brought to the forefront of late. As the leafs begin to fall, the Yankees seem to be transitioning back into the corporate structure that existed from the days of Ruppert and Jacob through CBS. Is that a bad thing? In terms of success on the field, seemingly not. If the Yankees really do stop being family, however, it will be an unfortunate cost of doing business and a shame for future generations of fans.
The first Yankees’ lineup announced by Bob Sheppard on April 17, 1951
LF #40…Jackie Jensen…#40
SS #10…Phil Rizzuto…#10
RF #6…Mickey Mantle…#6
CF #5…Joe DiMaggio…#5
C #8…Yogi Berra…#8
1B #36…Johnny Mize…#36
3B #24…Billy Johnson…#24
2B #42…Jerry Coleman…#42
P #17…Vic Raschi…#17