Bob Sheppard refused to use the word "retired," even at age 99 and with no plans to return to work for the Yankees.
"But," he acknowledged yesterday, "I don’t intend at this moment to see myself back as a public address announcer at Yankee Stadium, feeling the way I do now."
Sheppard has not worked since late in the 2007 season and told Newsday last month that his contract expires in February, 2010.
He has inched closer and closer to acknowledging his unofficial retirement this year, but he went a step further than he has previously in an interview with MLB.com that was posted early yesterday, saying, "I have no plans of coming back."
Reached at his Baldwin home, Sheppard hedged, but only slightly, saying, "It wasn’t a resignation. It wasn’t quitting. It wasn’t throwing in the glove."
So he isn’t ruling out a future return? Sheppard laughed.
"Let me start from the bottom: I am now 99 years old," he said. "I don ’t think a man 99 years old goes back to work after two years of separation."
For decades, Sheppard adamantly has refused to discuss or confirm his age publicly. Why now? "It’s been in the paper," he said. "It’s been in Sports Illustrated. It’s no secret."
Sheppard said the Yankees have not contacted him about returning to work and noted they hired Paul Olden as a replacement. But he said it is a moot point because he has not been physically up to it for the past two years.
"I loved it while I did it, while I was able to do it, but I’m not sure I could do it now even if they said they wanted me to," he said.
"As far as I’m concerned the Yankees made a professional choice in getting Paul Olden to fill in. And he has been good to me. He gives me a call every couple of weeks or so just to touch base . . . Listening to the radio and listening to his voice in the background, the Yankees made a reasonable selection."
In his interview with MLB.com, Sheppard explained why even a single appearance in the p.a. booth for old times’ sake might be too much for him.
"It’s not just the two hours or three hours of baseball," he said. "It ’s the trip, the preparation, the trip home, and a long, long day. I think at my age, it's time to accept the fact that I had a great run. A great run. And I only made a few mistakes along the way."
Sheppard, who began with the Yankees in 1951 and also worked for decades for Giants and St. John’s, suffered from a bronchial infection in ‘07 that dropped his weight as low as 103 pounds – 62 below where he was as a quarterback for St. John’s 80 years ago.
"Now I’m up to 136 pounds," he said. "The doctor said, ‘You’re not going to be cured and cleared until you’re 145 pounds."
He suffered a further physical setback in March of this year when he fell down some steps and suffered bruises.
Sheppard said he was "thrilled" by the Yankees’ World Series victory, but he has not yet been to the new stadium, where a recording of his voice still introduces Derek Jeter's at-bats. He hopes to visit in 2010 if he is up to it physically.
"I’d like to go up and look at it," he said. "They tell me there is a Bob Sheppard dining room there." Would he like to check out the fare? "If the price is right," he said.