Updated 4:02 p.m.: This one isn’t an April Fools joke: Bob Sheppard may be close to announcing his retirement as the Yankees’ public address speaker.
Sheppard, 98 and the Yankee announcer since 1951, has been out of commission since contracting a serious case of pneumonia in Sept. 2007, and while he had hoped to return to the Bronx, Paul Doherty, a family friend of Sheppard’s and a former agent for the Voice of God, told The Times’ Jack Curry that Sheppard no longer wants the pressure of a looming comeback. At his age, who can blame him?
Curry however could not get a confirmation from Sheppard. “I never said it,” the Yankees PA man told Curry. “I never said I’m not returning. I never, never said I’m not returning and I say it to you now.”
According to Doherty, Sheppard is stepping down for age-related reasons and not health reasons. Doherty says that Sheppard is still active and recently drove to pick up his son at the train station. The idea of a 98-year-old Sheppard behind the wheel is not a comforting one.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have not confirmed this rumor as official and have not yet named a successor to the legendary announcer. Jim Hall, the recent backup and 2008 announcer, won’t inherit the mantle, and Paul Olden will be announcing this weekend’s Yanks-Cubs exhibition games. If this is truly the end of the line for the six-decade veteran of the Yankee Stadium booth, all I can say is godspeed, Mr. Sheppard. It’s been quite a run.