Sheppard has special place in Yankees lore

Sheppard has special place in Yankees lore

SEATTLE -- As long as Derek Jeter plays for the New York Yankees, so will the gentle, gentlemanly voice of venerable stadium announcer Bob Sheppard be heard.

Sheppard died Sunday morning at age 99. His distinguished voice, which Reggie Jackson once described as the "voice of God," was part of the Yankee Stadium introductions from 1951 until his final game in 2007.

Jeter, perhaps anticipating his ultimate departure, taped his introduction of himself several years ago and will continue to play it before each at-bat to honor him.

"I grew up a Yankee fan. He was voice I always heard," Jeter said before Sunday's game against Seattle. "There were a few times when he was not there and it just didn't sound right. So I had the idea to record his voice and use it as long as I was playing."

When Sheppard heard a few years go what Jeter did, he passed the word back to him that he was honored.

"He is as much a part of this organization as any player," Jeter said. "He was the one constant at Yankee Stadium. He was part of the experience. He's going to be missed."

Sheppard, who also announced the New York Giants games from 1956 to 2006, was a New York institution. He announced 62 World Series games in his career. His voice was a precious commodity that, when given the Sheppard treatment, the players believed they had finally made it.

"You think about Bob Sheppard and you think about the tradition of the Yankees," manager Joe Girardi said. "You think about Ruth, Gehrig, Joe D, Maris and Mantle and you mention Bob Sheppard in that group.

"That's how important he was to the organization. It's very sad.

"The first time I heard it was 1996. You realize you hit the big lights when Bob Sheppard announced your name. It was amazing meet him in person because it was always a voice from like up above. Then when he would come down to the dugout and talk to you, it was a thrill."

You didn't even have to be a player to appreciate what Sheppard could do to your goose bumps. Longtime trainer Gene Monahan would occasionally be introduced on the field for postseason games.

Bob Sheppard, 1910-2010

"It was always something you never thought you deserved, never thought it would ever happen," Monahan said. "When it did, and you never thought it was coming, you think, 'my gosh, Bob Sheppard just said my name.' It kind of gets you, makes you sting a little inside."

Sheppard was never one to ask for favors, such as autographs or have his friends meet the players. He respected the players' job and he remained professional at his. But there were a few times, Monahan said, when he would ask a favor.

"Five or six times a year, he would poke his head in, and very politely ask, 'May I have a lozenge?' He was one of those guy who knew how to say that word. He had it perfect, like he did with everything else. That's the only thing he ever asked us for.

"He was the most polite man I have ever met."

Sheppard made it a habit of approaching any player who might have had a difficult name in inquire about how they pronounce it. But when Jorge Posada played his first game for the Yankees in 1995, Sheppard committed an error.

"He called me Posado," Posada said. "So Derek started calling me Sado after that."

Someone must have told Sheppard, so he visited Posada the next day to make sure of the pronunciation and to clarify that he preferred Jorge to George.

"His voice, there was nobody better," Posada said. "People look forward to going to Yankee Stadium to hear that voice. Moving to a new stadium, not having him there was weird."

Mariano Rivera was another longtime player who came up during that mid-90s era. He is a player with enormous concentration, yet not so much that he wasn't aware of Sheppard's call.

"That voice is irreplaceable. It was outstanding. We are going to miss that," Rivera said. "You always heard that voice, even if you don't want to. It was such a strong voice.

"My prayers will be with his family, his wife and that God will bring peace to him."

Andy Pettitte came to the organization without having much knowledge of Sheppard and what he meant to the tradition. But as he was coming through the Minor League system, he got it.

"You start realizing what he meant to the organization, how important he was," Pettitte said. "You definitely pay attention. He had a great voice, that's for sure. It's a tough loss for the organization.

"When you think about all the great players he announced, when you think about the Yankees and the old stadium, there is no doubt you think about him."

His voice now has been silenced. But it will go on, in our heads and in every Jeter at-bat at the ballpark.

"It's unfortunate," Jeter added. "Everyone knows what he meant to this organization. It's sad to see."

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.