Bob Sheppard made his final Yankee Stadium appearance during the closing ceremonies for the old stadium in September 2008. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
Updated by Ben (11:50 a.m.): Yankees public address announcer for over 50 years, Bob Sheppard, has passed away at his home in Baldwin, NY, the Associated Press reported this morning. Dubbed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson, Sheppard annouced over 4,500 games, including 22 World Series. Long known for his introductions to the stadium (“Good Evening…ladies and gentlemen…and welcome to Yankee Stadium”), the national anthem and Yankee captain Derek Jeter, Sheppard would have been 100 this October. He’s been battling illness since 2008 and officially announced his retirement in November. In addition to his storied career as the Yankees’ public address announcer, Sheppard was a noted poet and spent many years announcer New York Giants’ games at the Meadowlands.
“The Yankees and Bob Sheppard were a marriage made in heaven,” Paul Sheppard, the PA announcer’s 71 year old son said to The Times’ Richard Goldstein. “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!’ ”
For many Yankee fans of a certain age, Sheppard was the only constant at Yankee Stadium. Through thick and thin, through ownership groups, last place finishes and World Series championships, Sheppard was always there. He began his Bronx career in 1951 when Joe DiMaggio still patrolled center field and a young kid from Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle made his Major League debut. He worked nearly every game until September of 2007 when he was sidelined with a bout bronchial infection that left his seriously weakened.
Sheppard never returned to Yankee Stadium after 2007, but his presence has been felt at Yankee Stadium, new and old. He appeared in a video greeting during the old stadium’s last hurrah in September of 2008, and Derek Jeter still comes to bat to a pre-recorded Sheppard announcement of his “Numbah 2, Derek Jetah.” He never made it to the new Yankee Stadium.
In 2000, the Yankees honored Sheppard with his own day at the stadium and his own plaque in Monument Park. Famed newscaster Walter Cronkite read the inscription: “The voice of Yankee Stadium. For half a century, he has welcomed generations of fans with his trademark greeting, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium.'”
Sheppard also called New York Giants games from 1956 through 2006 and lent his voice to the basketball and football teams at St. John’s University, where he was a speech professor, as well. He passed away at 99, just three months shy of the century mark, and will forever be remembered as the Voice of the Yankees.