Bob Sheppard, the Yankee Stadium public-address announcer known as the "Voice of God" for his resonant introductions of baseball players from Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter, has died. He was 99.
Sheppard died Sunday at his home in Baldwin, N.Y., the Yankees said. No cause was given.
Sheppard debuted at the Yankees' season opener of April 17, 1951, and he was heard at every opening-day game until 2006 when he dislocated his artificial hip.
A bronchial infection led to a lengthy hospital stay at the end of the 2007 regular season, and he never returned to work another game. By then, Sheppard's voice had reverberated in New York City's most famous stadium for more than half a century and in more than 4,400 games.
"Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen," Sheppard would demand, whether asking fans to rise for the national anthem or to note: "Now batting for the Yankees, the shortstop, No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2."
A recording of Sheppard still is used to introduce Jeter before each at-bat at home.
"When you think of Yankee Stadium, he's the first thing that comes to mind," Jeter said in 2006. "It's not right playing here unless he's the one that's announcing."
Sheppard was "a fine man whose voice set the gold standard for America's sports announcers," George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the Yankees, said in a statement. "His death leaves a lasting silence."
Sheppard was a New York high school speech teacher when he was hired as a public-address announcer for pro football games at Yankee Stadium. Announcing at an exhibition football game led to a job with the long defunct Brooklyn Dodgers of the All-American Conference in 1947. When they folded a year later, he was hired by the football New York Yankees, who played at Yankee Stadium.
The baseball team's management liked his approach, and Sheppard was on board for opening day in 1951.
"I just try to be clear, concise and correct," he told the New York Times in 2000. "I don't change my pattern. I speak at Yankee Stadium the same way I do in a classroom, a saloon or reading the gospel at Mass at St. Christopher's."
In addition to the Yankees, Sheppard was the public-address announcer for the New York Giants football team from 1956 until retiring after the 2005 season.
Robert Leo Sheppard, who grew up in Queens, consistently refused to disclose his age; New York voter records listed his date of birth as Oct. 20, 1910.
He played varsity football and baseball for St. John's University, where he earned a degree in speech in 1932. He also received a master's degree in speech from Columbia University.
Sheppard was the chairman of the speech department of John Adams High School in Queens before becoming a professor of speech at St John's.
"Mr. Sheppard could read Eminem lyrics and make them sound like the Magna Carta," wrote the New York Times' Clyde Haberman in 2005.
He announced at 62 World Series games and a pair of All-Star games, and introduced more than 70 Hall of Famers across his career. It was one of them, Reggie Jackson, who dubbed Sheppard "The Voice of God."
When Sheppard missed the 2007 division series, he was replaced by Jim Hall, his longtime backup. Paul Olden took over when the Yankees moved to their new stadium in 2009.
Sheppard is survived by his wife, Mary, sons Paul and Christopher, daughters Barbara and Mary, four grandchildren and at least nine great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times