Bob Sheppard is one of only two people ever awarded both a World Series ring and a Super Bowl ring.
Mr. Sheppard was a long-time public address announcer for several New York-area college and professional sports teams. From 1951 through 2007, he was the announcer for the New York Yankees. He also served as the in-house voice of the New York football Giants for a half century. Sheppard worked as P.A. announcer for the New York Titans [later Jets] of the American Football League, major league soccer’s New York Cosmos, the New York Stars of the World Football League, and called many Army-Navy football games.
Sheppard began announcing for the Giants when they moved from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium in 1956, followed the team when they moved to the Meadowlands in 1976, and called his last Giants game in 2006 when the travel from his home on Long Island to the stadium in New Jersey became too difficult. Mr. Sheppard was best known for his work in baseball, where his distinctive announcing style became an integral part of the Yankee Stadium experience. “Good afternoon [evening]…ladies and gentlemen…and welcome…to Yankee Stadium,” his words reverberating around the massive structure. Bob Sheppard announced more than 4,500 Yankee games, including 22 pennant-winning seasons and 13 World Series championships. Over 56 years, he called 121 consecutive post-season contests, 62 World Series games, six no-hitters and three perfect games.
Bob Sheppard was an outpost of dignity. There was an elegance to his diction, a rich, full timbre to his voice and a precision of pronunciation that was unique. Not show biz, not glitz, and not over the top; but extraordinarily good. “A public address announcer should be clear, concise, correct,” said Sheppard. “He should not be colorful, cute or comic.” Each in-game announcement began: “Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen.” His smooth, distinctive baritone and consistent elocution became iconic aural symbols of both Yankee Stadium and Giants Stadium. Reggie Jackson nicknamed him “The Voice of God” and Carl Yastrzemski once said, “You’re not in the big leagues until Bob Sheppard announces your name.” Sheppard possessed a voice that sounded as though it came directly from heaven. The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Sheppard could read Eminem lyrics and make them sound like the Magna Carta.”
Mr. Sheppard shared a birthday with Mickey Mantle, who was his all-time favorite player to announce. The Mick once told Sheppard, “Every time you introduced me at Yankee Stadium, I got shivers up my spine,” to which Sheppard replied, “So did I.” His favorite game was what is widely considered the greatest game ever played—the 1958 NFL Championship between the Giants and Baltimore Colts at Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth gave Yankee Stadium its nickname, but Bob Sheppard gave the ballpark its sound. He was on hand when Roger Maris [Daily Dose, 9/10/15] hit home run number 61, when Reggie Jackson belted three homers in a single World Series game, and for Don Larson’s perfect game, which is Mr. Sheppard’s favorite baseball moment at the venerable stadium.
Robert Leo Sheppard was born in the Richmond Hill section of Queens, New York, on this day in 1910. After graduating from St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn in 1928, he attended St. John’s University on an athletic scholarship, earning three varsity letters as a first baseman and four as a left-handed quarterback for the Redmen football team. He was also elected president of his senior class. In 1933, he received a Master’s degree in Speech Education from Columbia. He played semi-pro football on Long Island while teaching speech at a high school in Queens. During World War II, he served in the Navy as a gunnery officer in the Pacific. Sheppard returned to New York after the war, teaching public speaking night classes at St. John’s while coaching high school speech and debate on Long Island by day. His first work as a P.A. announcer came doing football and basketball games for St. John’s. In the late 40s, he also became the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the All-American Football Conference [Daily Dose, 9/6/16], where an official from the Yankees front office heard him deliver a tribute to Babe Ruth [Daily Dose, 9/24/15]. Three years later, he was hired as Yankees’ announcer and made his debut on Opening Day 1951. Sheppard was paid $ 15 per game and $ 17 for a double header. The first game he announced—Yankees hosting Red Sox–featured eight future hall of famers, including Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Ted Williams. The first player he ever introduced was Dom DiMaggio; Joe’s brother.
In 2006, the 95-year-old Sheppard missed his first home opener since 1951 after injuring his hip. It marked the beginning a slow deterioration of his health and he called what turned out to be his final game September 5, 2007. Although he signed a new two-year contract with the Yankees in March 2008, he missed the entire 2008 season. Two weeks after his 99th birthday in 2009—the day after the Yankees defeated Philadelphia to capture their 27th World Series–Sheppard formally announced his retirement.
He died at his home the following year, three months shy of his 100th birthday. The Yankees first home game following Sheppard’s death was played with an empty P.A. booth and no announcements. The microphone he used for over half a century is now on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A plaque honoring Robert Leo Sheppard in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park speaks of the “divine reverence” with which he announced the names of baseball players. During a player’s first at-bat, he communicated the player’s position, uniform number and name,then repeated the number. For each succeeding at-bat, Sheppard announced only the player’s position and name. In 2008, future first-ballot hall of famer Derek Jeter asked Sheppard to record his at-bat introductions. Sheppard was deeply honored, and these recordings were used to introduce Jeter’s home at-bats from the beginning of the 2008 season until his final game at Yankee Stadium September 25, 2014. They were also used at the 2010 Major League All-Star Game in Anaheim, California. “Now batting for the Yankees…the shortstop…numb-bah two…Derek Jeet-tah…numb-bah two.”