How could you not?
When Sheppard’s voice emanated through the crackle of transistor radios in April, we knew spring had arrived. When the Red Sox and Yankees had summer battles in the Bronx, his voice was always present. It haunted our autumn nightmares like the ghosts of the old Yankee Stadium and witnessed the end of 86 years of frustration.
Sheppard’s voice is legend. It is as much a part of New England culture as Johnny Most’s gravelly calls, and Sheppard’s golden pipes still send shivers down our spines like the images of Ted Williams at the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
In 2001, Sheppard’s voice brought us to tears when baseball returned to a city grieving and rebuilding from the tragic attacks of Sept. 11. The country needed "The Voice of God," as Reggie Jackson put it, and Sheppard was there for us.
On July 11, Sheppard went home, passing away at the age of 99.
He welcomed us into the oft-unfriendly confines of Yankee Stadium when we traveled to support our local nine. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium," his melodious voice would call out, and immediately, we felt at home.
In a game rich in history, Sheppard preserved everything that is right about the game. He was not a showman or a shouter, and his voice did not boom or bellow. He was, simply, "The Voice." He was articulate and clear, and for that, he became iconic and legendary.
On April 17, 1951, Boston’s Dom DiMaggio became the first name Sheppard ever announced at Yankee Stadium. It was a great moment for New England, as the little known speech professor from St. John’s University not only introduced DiMaggio to the people in stands that day, but he introduced his mellifluous voice to New England.
Over the next 50-odd years, Sheppard never wavered from his philosophy of staying "clear, concise and correct." A style that remained refreshing and true, as the modern day PA announcer morphed into a wild and excitable voice.
His voice nestled its way comfortably into our hearts and our imaginations. I remember as a child hitting rolled-up balls of Scotch tape with a feather duster in my basement, pretending I was a big leaguer. It seemed as if every night we played the Yankees, and when we traveled to the Bronx, there was Bob Sheppard to announce me.
Clear as day, "Now batting for the Boston Red Sox, the center fielder, number two, Greg Cavanaugh, (a perfectly timed pause) number two, Greg Cavanaugh."
I could hear Sheppard’s voice perfectly. It was undistinguishable, and it was gold. I swear I hit a home run to win the game every single time.
I’m sure millions of young boys and girls across the country and perhaps around the world have that special and unique connection with Mr. Sheppard. His voice is one that has generated real magic, not just the baseball magic a young child can conjure up in his or her mind.
Sheppard announced at 62 World Series' games for the New York Yankees, and saw it all. It was as if his voice shook the walls of Yankee Stadium, reverberating through the crisp October night to awaken the ghosts in Monument Park.
His voice possessed poetic diction, but it could send haunting chills down your spine. In the 2003 ALCS, it was Sheppard who calmly called Jorge Posada to the plate when all seemed lost for the Yankees. It was Sheppard who introduced Aaron Boone in the same exact way he introduced the Yankee greats of Derek Jeter, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra, right before Tim Wakefield’s offering was sent sailing into the Bronx night sky.
That same voice was there to witness the greatest comeback in major league history the very next year. Even though Sheppard announced every pitcher and hitter with the same familiar elegance he always had, his voice never sounded quite as beautiful for New Englanders as it did Oct. 20, 2004.
Late in the 2007 season, Sheppard came down with a bronchial infection forcing him to leave his familiar post in Yankee Stadium. A recording of Sheppard’s voice still introduces Captain Jeter, and still welcomes fans into the new Yankee Stadium, but sadly, it is just not quite the same.
Although the authentic "Voice of God" will never echo off the walls of Yankee Stadium again, it continues to flow brilliantly and poetically in our memories and still induces shivers and goosebumps through our bodies. Sheppard’s voice has worked its way into the very soul of baseball, helping to maintain the purity of our pastime.
Farewell and thank you, Mr. Sheppard. May your voice ring loud and clear from the heavens for our loved ones who also have gone home.
For now, we’ll preserve your voice in our minds and in our hearts clearly, concisely, and correctly.
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