Sheppard's voice as mellifluous as ever

Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard smiles before he calls

Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard smiles before he calls the a game at the old Yankee Stadium. (April 21, 2006) (Credit: Newsday file photo/Paul J. Bereswill )

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Bob Sheppard was back at the microphone yesterday, but his stage wasn't Yankee Stadium. It was the living room of his Baldwin home.

And instead of speaking to many thousands of people, his audience was a total of seven, including his wife, a son and a Newsday reporter.

The occasion was to tape Sheppard's voice for an upcoming animated film titled "Henry and Me" that is based on a children's book by Yankees adviser Ray Negron.

"Ladies and gentleman . . . ,'' Sheppard said in his distinctive pitch and tone before introducing the movie and its cast.

It's been two years since Sheppard has announced a Yankees game. Last November he told Newsday, "I don't think a man 99 years old goes back to work after two years of separation."

But listening to Sheppard speak into the microphone yesterday, you could have closed your eyes and felt as if you were inside Yankee Stadium. The year could have been 1951, with the names DiMaggio and Mantle in the lineup. That's how clear and energetic his famous voice remains.

The children's film, due out in late spring, is slated to premiere at Suffolk CC, with proceeds going to juvenile diabetes. Negron wanted Sheppard's voice to be a part of his film as a way to introduce the man Reggie Jackson has called "The Voice of God'' to a new generation of Yankees fans.

Derek Jeter already is doing his part in that regard. Every time the Yankees' captain has batted in the past two years, a tape of Sheppard introducing him has been played over Yankee Stadium's public address system, at Jeter's request. Yesterday, Sheppard called that "the greatest compliment I have ever received."

Sheppard's introduction is so revered by players that Negron believes he's heard hundreds of major-leaguers imitate Sheppard's voice in the clubhouse over the years.

Said Negron, "I used to tell Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson that the only thing they had in common was that they both like to imitate Bob Sheppard announce their names."

In the hour in which Sheppard hosted the movie crew of four, his usual energetic and jovial personality was on display.

Along with taping his lines for the movie, Sheppard entertained the Creative Group movie crew with stories about his "gentle confrontations" with George Steinbrenner (usually about an overly lengthy announcement Steinbrenner wanted him to make) as well as memorable moments from his 57 seasons introducing players at Yankee Stadium.

"He was tough, but if you were right, I think you could defend yourself," Sheppard said of Steinbrenner. "And I'm usually right."

Before taping his lines, Sheppard broke the ice with a trivia question, asking everyone if they knew the name of the Baltimore Colts kicker whose 20-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the Giants created the first sudden-death overtime game in NFL championship history.

That game - commonly referred to as the greatest football game ever played - took place at Yankee Stadium. And yes, Sheppard was the public address announcer.

No one knew the answer. In fact, Sheppard said only one person has ever answered it correctly (Steve Myhra).

"Now that," Sheppard said, "is a good trivia question."

Then Sheppard breezed through his lines in less than 20 minutes, and when he was done, he smiled and gave a thumbs-up.

He's still got it.

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