[[switching to first person]] As many long-time readers may know, the Yankees were a big part of my childhood. From the dark years of the 1960s until I left New Jersey for New England in 1975, I spent many happy days at Yankee Stadium or watching the Yankees on WPIX Channel 11 on television or listening to the team on my transistor radio. The radio was a gift from one of my sister's boyfriends, a mechanic named Guy Grease (no lie, is that an ironic name or what?). The radio had the logo of the gas station and was shaped like their gas pump. I took that thing everywhere and loved listening to Phil Rizzuto, the wonderful Yankee announcer, and also gloried in the Knicks' championship years with Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and company. I loved that radio.
One of the constants through all those years, whether at the stadium, watching the game or listening to the radio was the imperious tones of the Yankees' PA announcer, Bob Sheppard. The guy did his job from 1951 to just a few years ago. That era spanned 4500 MLB games, 22 Yankee pennants and 13 World Series titles. Reggie Jackson once dubbed him, "The Voice of God," and it was an apt moniker. He was in a class of his own.
The thing about Sheppard is that he wasn't like many of the PA announcers over the years who gave an extra padding of excitement when they announced the home team players. Who can ever forget the way Kirby Puckett was announced in Minnesota? But Sheppard was imperious and mono-tonal and announced each player on each team the same. He truly was in a class by himself.
I could go in more detail about the man's life, but you can always find that here. The main point in writing this post was to just tip a Fan's cap at the life and career of a guy who never played a game, but who was as much a Yankee as any other legend that ever played in New York. We loved the guy, absolutely loved him. And what made him so grand was that once he started speaking, you just knew you were observing or listening to a Yankee game. Personally, Derek Jeter is the soul of the Yankees and their fans. He gets the heritage he is involved in and he gets the mystique of his uniform. It says volumes that whenever Jeter comes to bat, he insists on being announced by a recording of Bob Sheppard announcing his name. You've got that right, Jeter. Absolutely.
Bob Sheppard will turn 100 in 2010. He's lived a full and wonderful life and for an a guy who is a little more than half Sheppard's age, the "Voice of God" will forever be ingrained in the memory bank. He was first rate and pure class. And no matter what kind of team the Yankees threw out there and no matter what ugliness may have been in the clubhouse or in the front office, Sheppard made it inconsequential. Once he spoke, it was the Yankees and it was official.