Bob Sheppard the great Yankee public address announcer has died at the reported age of 99 after a full life filled with much joy. I place a picture of his microphone here as most people didn’t know what Bob looked like–and that was kind of the way he liked it. But you knew that voice. A perfect pronunciation of every syllable made Sheppard a standout. Derek Jeter has his voice recorded and only allows that recording to be used for his at bats.
“Now batting for the Yankees…number 2… the shortstop…Derek Jee-tuh….number 2.”
The guy was the classiest man I have ever met. A daily communicant all his life, Sheppard was a big supporter of Catholic education, coaching forensics at Mary Louis Academy in Queens and teaching speech at St John’s University for dozens of years (a fact unknown by many). He inspired me to go into ministry when I was a locker room reporter for WOR and we chatted in the middle of a ballgame in his booth.
He asked my last name and I told him “Hayes.”
He replied, “Oh! Like the Cardinal! (A former Archbishop of New York–no relation).”
He then said, “Well what the heck are you doing HERE!? You should be at the seminary or something!”
Little did Bob know, I was thinking of going into ministry and you never know when you’re going to hear the Voice of God telling you exactly what you should do. I let him know about this in a brief interview and he got a real kick out of it. Again the audio is on this podcast.
Just like Yankee Shortstop Paul Zuvella. Sheppard approached him on his first day in a Yankee uniform and asked,
“Is it Zu-vell-uh or Zoovuh-la?”
Paul responded with the former pronunciation, Sheppard gave him a quick thank you and departed. Zuvella then looked at then Daily news reporter Michael Kay and asked, “Who the hell was that?”
Kay responded, “That…was God.”
Zuvella: “I don’t get it!”
Kay: “You will once you get to the plate today.”
A confused Zuvella shrugged and moved on with his pre-game ritual.
Before his first At Bat Sheppard intoned:
“Now batting for the Yankees…..number 26….The shortstop…Paul…Zu-vell-uh…..number 26.”
Zuvella looked up with the expression like “Oh! Now I get it!”
Sheppard had two loves, The Yankees and his beloved family, starting with his devoted wife, Mary who he married and always looked at her with loving eyes. Listen to the interview I did with him and you’ll hear it for yourself. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were always his priority.
Imagine being a church lector and then telling people that Bob Sheppard trained you in proclaiming the Word of the Lord! That’s exactly what many people in Bob’s parish were able to say and he always took special interest in young lectors. A friend watched him sling his arm around a young lady who read at mass that day and watched him critique her quietly, lovingly.
She hung on to his every word.
Today I am sad for the Yankees and baseball but grateful for my ministry, and for a few brief moments that I spent with a sincere gentleman, kind enough to take a few moments for me. It is in gratitude for his encouragement that I celebrate today along with a ministry that was encouraged by the very Voice of God.