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Yankees pay tribute to Steinbrenner, Sheppard

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees speaks

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees speaks during the ceremony for George Steinbrenner before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (July 16, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The field was empty and Yankee Stadium was filled Friday night, with respect and warmth.

In a moving, brief, tasteful ceremony worthy of George Steinbrenner, who once directed a tribute to the late catcher Thurman Munson by having eight players take their positions and leaving the spot behind the plate empty.

It was a doubly charged event, memorializing both The Boss and Bob Sheppard, known as the Voice of God for his 56 years as the legendary public address announcer for the Yankees. Both men died this past week and both were cherished by the franchise and the fans that paid tribute.

There was a quiet prologue to the ceremony, with light and respectful organ music accompanying a video of Steinbrenner on the massive screens in the stadium that he had long dreamed of. The songs included titles about New York (such as "Lullaby of Broadway") and "Mr. Wonderful."

Just before the start of the ceremony, the public address system poured out Frank Sinatra's recording of "My Way."

Then, without any other introduction, there was the sound of Sheppard's recorded voice saying his familiar opening line, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium." Fans cheered loud and hard.

Paul Olden, Sheppard's successor, then referred to Steinbrenner and Sheppard and went on to read the former's legacy of success - 16 division titles, 11 pennants, seven World Series championships. Cheers grew to a crescendo and continued over a recording of Steinbrenner saying, "When you're putting the pinstripes on, you're not just putting on a baseball uniform. You're wearing tradition and you're going to wear it the right way."

Many players were seen on the video screen, honoring Steinbrenner. When the video ended, people just cheered and cheered. Among those paying close attention were the Yankees players, who stood in front of the dugout with their caps over their hearts (their uniforms bearing patches honoring both men). The visiting Rays similarly paid homage.

As the colors were presented in deep centerfield by cadets from West Point, Mariano Rivera walked silently and unannounced to home plate and left two roses there.

Derek Jeter then walked to a microphone on the field - introduced by a recording of Sheppard - and spoke without notes of the legacies of Steinbrenner and Sheppard for having "set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow."

He requested a moment of silence.

A trumpeter from West Point played taps and a singer from the same academy sang the national anthem a cappella.

Just before the start of the game, Olden announced that, in honor of Sheppard, the public address system would go silent when players came to bat. No announcements on this night, down two legends and filled with emotions.


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