“. . . . and welcome to Yankee Stadium.” – Bob Sheppard

July 12, 2010

BOB SHEPPARD

I spent a Yankee game in 1972 sitting next to Bob Sheppard in the booth from which he announced the players and sent other pertinent information rolling through the stadium like summer waves rippling along a shore. He was, as many have been saying in the wake of his death, a gentleman. He began his career at Yankee Stadium in 1951 – the same year that my father took me there for the first of many times. That means something to me, because Bob, with his courtly manners, his precise diction, and his John Barrymore tone, fit right into the atmosphere in the stadium at that time. As it turned out, he worked long enough to be the last vestige of the mood of those days, when many men came to the ballpark in suits and ties and many women in objects of finery from that now nearly extinct artisan — the milliner.

MARK BELANGER

Bob, who taught speech at the university level, had a great respect for words, including proper names, and he didn’t understand people who didn’t share that feeling. He told me that when Mark Belanger of the Baltimore Orioles made his first appearance at Yankee Stadium – probably in 1965 – Bob approached him and asked whether the name was pronounced Bel-ANN-zher, BEL-un-zher, or Bel-un-ZHAY. Belanger, who was to become one of the great defensive shortstops in American League history, said that some people pronounced the name one way, some another. Bob persisted, asking how Belanger wanted it pronounced, and was scandalized when the young man didn’t seem to care. Belanger himself pronounced it Bel-ANN-zher, so that’s the pronunciation  Bob used.

BOB SHEPPARD

Bob was known for several traits, including his religious devotion and his dependability. He told me, though, about an incident in which the Yankees had scheduled a 5 p.m. start for a twi-night double-header to make up for a rainout. Bob had forgotten to put the change in his date book. The phone rang at his Long Island home, and the caller — a member of the Yankee staff — asked what Bob was doing. “I’m just putting a steak on the grill for dinner,” Bob said. “That’s nice,” said the caller. “We’re in the second inning.”

There has been a lot published today about how various baseball personalities regarded Sheppard. My favorites were from Oscar Gamble, who used to refer to Bob as “the man upstairs” and from Reggie Jackson, who said that when Bob said “44,” he made it into a bigger number. You can read Bob’s obituary by clicking HERE.

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4 Responses to ““. . . . and welcome to Yankee Stadium.” – Bob Sheppard”

  1. bronxboy55 Says:

    Wonderful tribute, but you left us hanging with that doubleheader story: Did he eat his dinner, or did he drop the steak and jump into the car? (I’m guessing the latter.) Sheppard’s voice was definitely part of the Yankee Stadium experience. How did you happen to be in the booth with him?

    Thanks for the post.

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    Bob went in for the second game.

    I was in the newspaper business for more than 40 years. One of the advantages to that is that you can go pretty much anywhere you want. I also spent a game with Jack Murphy, who used to the director of the WPIX broadcasts of Yankee games. That was an unusual experience, because I watched the whole game on the bank of TV monitors under the stadium where Murphy and his crew worked. Some of the monitors were numbered and each of them had a live image from one of the cameras on the field. Murphy or his assistant would communicate with the cameramen via a headset. When a ball was in play, the man directing would call for the camera shots: “Two! Five! Two! One!” One of the monitors showed which shot was on the air, so we could watch that, too. It’s interesting how smooth that looks when we watch it at home without thinking about who is determining what we see. Murphy explained to me that the director had to know as much about the game as the players so as to anticipate what might take place.

    There was also a monitor for replays, and a couple of times during that game, after there had been a close play on the field, the door would burst open and about a half dozen Yankees would charge in — usually led by Dick Howser — shouting, “Let’s see that again! Let’s see that again!” They’d watch it and then file out, muttering to themselves.

    I also spent time in the clubhouse with clubhouse man Pete Sheehy, who was there from 1927 until he died in 1985. Sheehy was rarely interviewed, because he didn’t really want to talk about a job in which he saw the ballplayers in very unguarded moments. He told me that his ability to keep his mouth shut was the principal reason for his longevity. He was good at it, too. I asked him a long-winded question about whether it was possible that he had a favorite player inasmuch as he had been with the Yankees from the heyday of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig until ‘way past the Mickey Mantle era. His answer: “Joe.”

    I also spent several hours one day with Mel Allen, who was one of the nicest men I have ever known. Mel was just the opposite of Pete Sheehy; Pete didn’t talk, and Mel couldn’t stop. A typical phone conversation with Mel was:

    “Hello.”
    “Hi, Mel. This is Chuck Paolino.”
    “Oh, hi, Chuck. I haven’t seen you around the stadium and actually it’s a good thing you called me when you did because you just caught me between trips because I just came in from Chicago where we had a big event for Bob Cousy and tomorrow I’m leaving for South Carolina where we’re honoring Bobby Richardson who was a great second baseman and a hell of a guy and a very religious guy, too, because you probably know that he’s a minister and he was a minister the whole time he was playing with the Yankees, and ….”

  3. Marianne Says:

    It is nice to see bits of my grandfather (Jack Murphy) through someone else’s eyes. Jack (El Jock, to my brother’s and I)had a massive stroke when I was very young and never regained his speech. I would visit him in Ft. Lauderdale and delighted in his photos and memorabilia – I wish I could have heard more stories from him, though.

  4. charlespaolino Says:

    Thanks for writing, Marianne. I wrote a story about that afternoon under the Stadium, and I was inspired to do it because at the end of each Yankee telecast, the announcer would mention that the director was Jack Murphy. I got to wondering what a director would do at a baseball game and who this Jack Murphy was anyway. I doubt that many reporters visited Jack’s digs, but he was very accommodating. He had an assistant who would handle a couple of innings in the middle of the game. Jack said that it was difficult to sustain the level of concentration that job required without taking a break. He compared it to being an air traffic controller. I probably have a clip of that story somewhere. If so, I’d be happy to make a copy of it for you.

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