Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The "Voice of God"... and Pinstripes

While Yanks and Nats fans were hoping for special blessings after the papal liturgies on their respective home-turfs, both teams are currently occupying the basement of their respective divisions, with the DC squad nine games back in the NL East.

Given that, that lack of a Fenway stop might not've been the worst thing after all.

Stats aside, however, as the House That Ruth Built prepares to give way to the replacement wrought by Jeter and A-Rod across the street, BustedHalo profiles the MC of Baseball's Basilica -- longtime Yankee announcer (and daily Mass-goer) Bob Sheppard, who's done the honors at the mic in the South Bronx since 1951, but currently finds himself away from the box due to illness:
BustedHalo: Is this just a job for you or do you have the same passion for baseball that a lot of the fans have?

Bob Sheppard: Well I haven’t done it this season because I’ve been ill but I’m hoping to be back before the season is over, God willing and the doctor willing. I’ve done it for 57 years and I’ve enjoyed it for 57 years. And I will continue to do it as long as God keeps me in good shape and I find it interesting and pleasant. It’s undetermined how many years I have to go! I won’t say how old I am because that is a big secret, known only to millions of people, as far as we’re concerned you can just say that he is mature…he is QUITE mature. (laughs) I do want to be there next year when we open a new Stadium. And I’d like to be the one who says, “Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen…Welcome to the NEW…Yankee Stadium.”

BH: What a lot of people don’t know about you is that you’ve been a speech teacher for most of your life at the high school and college level. Do you consider yourself a speech teacher first and the Yankee announcer second?

BS: I’m a teacher first and a Yankee announcer second or maybe third or fourth. Primarily, my whole training has been to be a speech teacher. That’s what I decided to do when I was early in college at St. John’s (University in New York). For many years I was teaching high school speech during the day, St. John’s in the late afternoons and evenings and some of the summer times, and in the meantime, I was still at Yankee Stadium doing the night games and the weekend games....

BH: Bob can you tell us what’s the most important thing in your Catholic faith to you?

BS: Thank you, thank you, thank you for asking. Well, my family is Catholic. I go to mass every day that I’m able to; go to communion. Since I’ve been sick, my wife brings me the consecrated host every morning, every morning! 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. I gave innumerable lecture workshops around the country. In other words, I have been a fairly active Catholic layman in the speech area.
For a taste of Sheppard on the job, here's the announcer doing the lineups for a Yanks-BSox matchup:

PHOTO: Richard Perry/The New York Times