“Simms to Bavaro. First down.” Name one other public address announcer known throughout the sports world.
Reggie Jackson called him “the voice of God.” Now Bob Sheppard — the voice of the Yankees and the New York football Giants — is gone, three months shy of his 100th birthday.
Many are waxing poetic today about a man whose voice was nearly as popular as Sinatra’s, whose style — with its pregnant pauses — was perfect for both baseball AND football, whose reputation was worthy of respectful envy.
They’ll recite the stats: Yankees announcer 1951 to 2007; Giants p.a. man from 1956 to 2006; 4,500 major league baseball games, 22 American League pennants and 13 World Series championships.
And they’ll tickle fans with facts: Born in Richmond Hill (Queens, for those who don‘t know); graduate of St. John’s Prep in Bed-Stuy (Brooklyn); St. John’s University grad; masters from Columbia; World War II gunnery commander in the Pacific Fleet.
Yet as the age of exploding scoreboards and screaming announcers was dawning, Sheppard’s style reminded fans that the game wasn’t only what mattered most but what mattered at all.
He was a two-sport star at SJU, playing first base and — what else? — quarterback.
The first Yankee lineup Sheppard announced contained eight future Hall of Famers, five on the New York squad alone: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Mize, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto. Their opponents, the Boston Red Sox, featured Ted Williams and Lou Boudreau. The first player he introduced was Joe DiMaggio‘s brother, Dom, of the Sox. He was paid $15 a game — $17 for a doubleheader.
“Shepp” worked for the Giants for 50 years on a handshake agreement with the late owner Wellington Mara. He worked Big Blue’s victory in the NFC title game in 1987 — where the wind chill at the Meadowlands was below zero and gusts made shredded paper look like snow.
His microphone is in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and he has a plaque at Yankee Stadium.
Expect more tributes to follow, all of them more than deserved.
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