“The Voice of God” Lived a Humble But Distinguished Life

The voice of Yankee Stadium will speak no more. Millions of attendees of sporting events at Yankee Stadium for more than 50 years will miss hearing the stentorian tones of the iconic public address announcer. Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium for six decades died at his home in Baldwin, New York on Sunday, July 11. Sheppard was three months shy of living for one century.

Sheppard was born in Ridgewood, Queens in October 1910. He attended St. John’s College (now University) in Queens. Sheppard studied literature and speech in college. After graduation he became a teacher in the New York City Public School System. Climbed each rung of the ladder of advancement until reaching the position of Speech Department Chairperson at John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Queens.

To supplement the meager income of a public school teacher, he played semipro football on Long Island. Sheppard also served his country as a naval officer during the Second World War. Sheppard married and the couple raised four children.

Sheppard’s long career behind the microphone began in the 1940’s when he announced a charity football game. In 1950, his admired work led to an offer from the New York Yankees to become the team’s public address announcer. He declined because the many day games then played would interfere with his teaching responsibilities.

One year later, Sheppard went to work at Yankee Stadium. His career in the Bronx began on April 17, 1951 and ended on September 5, 2007. During that period, he announced nearly 5,000 baseball games. The Yankees were not the only local sports team that were blessed to have Sheppard announce their games. He worked as the public address announcer for the New York Giants (football) for 50 seasons. He also worked for the New York Titans (AFL), the New York Stars (WFL), the New York Cosmos (NASL) and football and basketball games at St. John’s University, his alma mater.

Sheppard has been the recipient of many honors. These have been received not because of longevity but because of skill. Sheppard had been given honorary degrees by St, John’s and Fordham University. He was honored by the BBWAA and by the Yankees. On May 7, 2000, a plaque honoring him was added to Monument Park, the hallowed ground that honors Yankee immortals. One unofficial but no less moving and important honor is the respect shown Sheppard by Yankee captain Derek Jeter. A recording of the voice of Sheppard announcing Jeter’s name is played before each of Jeter’s trips to the plate in Yankee Stadium.

The announcer was an avid reader who always carried a book he was reading into the Stadium.  He was a devout Catholic who served as a lay reader during services. He was a regular attendee and overseer of the Sunday morning Masses held at the stadium when day games were scheduled. Sheppard ate at the Yankee Dining Room with organist Eddie Layton until the latter’s death. When the new ballpark opened in April 2009, the dining area had been named to honor Sheppard, Bob Sheppard’s Place.

Sheppard is survived by his wife Mary, four children, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He also carries the respect of all who knew him.

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