Cashman spoke Thursday at a funeral for Bob Sheppard, the Yankees announcer whose dignified intonations were a constant for generations of fans.
Sheppard's mastery of the language - he worked at St. John's University, his Queens alma mater, as a speech professor - was on Cashman's mind as he spoke, making sure to choose his words carefully and speak them with proper grammar.
"It was the most nervous I've ever been," Cashman said.
Sheppard, who served as the Yankee Stadium announcer for 56 years, died Sunday at his home in Baldwin. He was 99. His wife, Mary, and son, Christopher of La Jolla, Calif., were at his side.
"[Steinbrenner] was always in search of perfection," Cashman said, "and Bob was perfect."
Earlier Thursday, Sheppard was remembered in a funeral at St. Christopher's Church on Merrick Road in Baldwin. A gallery of dignitaries were on hand to honor him, among them, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Giants co-owner John Mara and Hall of Fame St. John's basketball coach Lou Carnesecca.
Mara said he hadn't been nervous about offering his remarks until a conversation with a friend shortly before the funeral.
"That must be quite a bit of pressure having to eulogize the voice of God," the friend said.
He said a handshake agreement was the basis for Sheppard's more than 50 years as the public address announcer for the New York Football Giants, as Sheppard referred to the team.
Sheppard's son Paul said it was a love of sports, not money, that drew him to his work as a public address announcer for the Yankees, Giants and St. John's. When he started with the Yankees, Paul said, Sheppard was paid only $15 per game, which was bumped up to $17.50 for doubleheaders.
The pastor at St. Christopher's Church, the Rev. Steven Camp, spoke of Sheppard's devotion to the church, where he served as a lector, and to living a religious life. He remembered the joy that crept upon children's faces at the church when they heard Sheppard speak and realized who he was.
A Mass for Sheppard concluded just before noon, when his body was taken from the church to Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn.
Speaking after the ceremony, Giuliani said he had been friends with Sheppard for more than 15 years.
"He was a kind man," Giuliani said. Of the service, he said "it was a beautiful tribute."
Sal Candiano, 44, of Baldwin, was outside the church for the entire ceremony, along with his handmade sign which read "Long Live the Voice."
Candiano, a Met's fan, is known as "the sign guy" at Citi Field, where he brings multiple homemade signs to each home game, but he came to the ceremony to honor a man he described as the quiet symbol of Baldwin.
"Bob Sheppard transcends team rivalries," Candiano said. "He was a pillar of society."
The Yankees enshrined Sheppard with a plaque in Monument Park on May 7, 2000. According to his son, Sheppard used to say, "I'm out there with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and two popes. Not bad."
Sheppard became an announcer by accident. A native of Ridgewood, Queens, he played baseball and football at St. John's, studied for his master's degree at Columbia University, served in the Navy during World War II and earned $25 a game as a semipro quarterback.
When he heard that the Yankees football team was playing an exhibition against the Chicago Rockets at Freeport Stadium in the late 1940s, he volunteered to announce it. Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who also fielded a football team, was at the game. He heard Sheppard. He offered him a job on the spot.
The Dodgers football team folded. But the Yankees hired Sheppard to announce their football games, then later their baseball games at the stadium.
Though Sheppard had not announced a game in person since 2007, he can still be heard at every Yankees home game - as he was at the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game Tuesday night - introducing the Yankees star shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter.
Jeter had Sheppard record the introduction and pledged to use it before each home at-bat for the rest of his career.
"He was the one constant at Yankee Stadium," Jeter said earlier this week. "He was part of the experience."