Bob Sheppard’s Stadium Cathedral
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
Bob Sheppard was the vocal embodiment of Yankee baseball. For many players and fans, he elevated the game into a kind of religious experience. The iconic announcer, who served as the public voice of the Yankees for over 50 years, died this week at the age of 99.
"The Voice of God," as he was fondly called, announced each player’s name "clearly, concisely, and correctly." Former Yankees player Paul O’Neill once likened Sheppard’s voice to "the organ at church." Sheppard himself described Yankee Stadium as "a cathedral for baseball people."
For Sheppard, this kind of metaphor wasn’t just rhetoric. He led a deeply spiritual life as a cradle Catholic who was active as a lector in his Long Island church. Even as he became frail with illness and age, he continued to take daily communion at home. His decision to pursue speech as a vocation was encouraged by Vincentian priests while attending a Catholic high school in Brooklyn. He reflected on his faith in an interview with Busted Halo:
"I have a very special love for the Blessed Mother and always have had, it started when I was young I think and I can remember many times at St. John’s Prep Chapel going in to the church there before a baseball game and asking the Blessed Mother to allow me to get a couple of hits that afternoon (laughs). And she did! (laughs) She was good, very good to me."
Sheppard loved reading and wrote poetry. In 2008, he drafted this poem in commemoration of the last baseball game ever to be played at the old Yankee Stadium:
Farewell, old Yankee Stadium, farewell
What a wonderful story you can tell
DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig and Ruth
A baseball cathedral in truth.
(Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)