The news on Wednesday surrounding Bob Sheppard’s health was sparse but promising. A few news outlets reported that Sheppard, while planning to miss Opening Day, would be back this season as soon as his health and wife allow it.
Well, George Vecsey of The Times went one step futher, and yesterday, he published an excellent column about the Voice of the Yankees. The lede is fantastic: Vecsey calls Sheppard’s house only to have Bob answer the phone. I would probably flip out if Bob Sheppard were to answer the phone in that very distinct voice.
Sheppard, Vecsey notes, was very sick last year. He couldn’t talk; he had to go the hopsital; and he eventually found himself down to 103 pounds. At 97 — Sheppard’s reported age — that is quite the health scare.
The Yankees say they believe Sheppard will return in July even though Bob’s aiming for June. The team may opt to keep him on the DL until the All Star Game just to make sure he’s healthy. As Vecsey writes, Bob Sheppard is Yankee Stadium:
Robert Leo Sheppard has been a highlight of any trip to the big ballyard in the Bronx since opening day, April 17, 1951, when he announced the name of Joe DiMaggio right after the youngster playing right field, Mickey Mantle. Roger or Reggie or Bernie might not hit a home run on any given day, but Sheppard would deliver the starting lineups, in a voice that would make everybody else in the joint sound like we were Archie or Edith Bunker speaking some other language…
The players want to make the majors just to hear Sheppard announce their names. Reggie Jackson still hasn’t gotten over hearing Sheppard, on a busman’s holiday, do a guest inning in Anaheim, Calif., back in the late ’70s. Reggie, in the on-deck circle, nearly flipped, hearing that voice 3,000 miles from home.
Lonn Trost, the Yanks’ COO, summed it up best: “If there was a scale of importance, Bob would be at the top. We feel uncomfortable without Bob and we hope he is with us for another 118 years.”