NEW YORK -- Bob Sheppard's career was marked by words, by a voice that, with perfect pace and impeccable elocution, often seemed more divine than human.
And so the finest tribute the Yankees could pay Sheppard on Friday night was silence. Not just a moment of it before the first pitch, but throughout the evening, with the usual player introductions and between-inning announcements replaced by a meaningful quiet.
That same silence was how the Yankees' current PA announcer, Paul Olden, responded to word of Sheppard's passing on Sunday.
"When I heard the news, it was like a sock to the stomach," said Olden. "It was a shock, and then you start to think about the 99 years, the longevity and the consistency that we all hope to have in life and in our profession."
Olden had known Sheppard for 22 years, dating back to when he was the play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Indians. He got to know Sheppard more closely in the mid-1990s, when he announced Yankees games for WPIX-TV. Olden would often share a pregame meal with Sheppard in his customary corner table, with the "Voice of Yankee Stadium" able to converse -- intelligently -- on just about any topic.
"He was always very welcoming and friendly, and that was Bob. He made you feel comfortable and at ease," Olden said. "He was a learned man, obviously, and could hold a good conversation about a number of things."
After Olden took over for Sheppard on a permanent basis during the 2009 season, he would call his predecessor every few weeks. The two would talk for a few minutes each time, less about the Yankees and the rigors of the job and more about Sheppard's remarkable life.
"We just talked about his life," Olden said, adding that he would often joke with Sheppard that they should play some basketball or hit a few golf balls.
Yankees management made it clear when Olden was hired that he was not to change Sheppard's idiosyncratic way of introducing players, repeating their number after their name. Olden, of course, didn't mind.
"[I have to] stay true to the essence of his style," he said. "That will always be the style of the Yankees. That will never change. We will always have that template -- the Sheppard template."
Always, that is, except for Friday night, when Sheppard's passing left Yankee Stadium speechless.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.