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Yankees recall iconic Sheppard's unique touch

A fan in right field holds a sign

A fan in right field holds a sign thanking Bob Sheppard as the Chicago White Sox played the Yankees at Yankee stadium. (Sept. 18, 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill

SEATTLE - Yes, Derek Jeter said, he will continue to use Bob Sheppard's introduction before each at-bat. For this season and those that follow.

"Yep," the Yankees' captain said in response to the question.

The answer was clear and concise. Sheppard, who died Sunday morning, no doubt would have approved.

"It was an idea I had five or six years ago," Jeter said. "I grew up a Yankee fan and he was the voice I always heard. There were a few times sprinkled in and out when he wasn't there and it just didn't sound right. I had the idea to record his voice and to always use it."

Joe Girardi remembered hearing Sheppard announce his name as a player for the first time at the old Stadium in 1996. "You realize that you hit the big lights when Bob Sheppard announces your name," he said.

"That first at-bat at Yankee Stadium, you don't forget it," Jorge Posada said. "He's part of that."

When discussing the tradition of the Yankees, Girardi said Sheppard's name belongs alongside those of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. "That's how important he was to this franchise," Girardi said.

Jeter agreed. "He's as much a part of this organization as any player," he said. "Even though the players change year in and year out, he was the one constant at Yankee Stadium. He was part of the experience."

Mariano Rivera called Sheppard's voice "irreplaceable." He said that even in the tense circumstances in which he'd enter most games, he very much heard the sound of what Reggie Jackson called "the voice of God."

"You can't omit that," Rivera said with a smile. "You always hear that voice - even if you don't want to. You'd recognize that voice and would hear it, because it was such a strong and tremendous voice."

Sheppard's approach in using that voice was first and foremost to be "clear, concise, correct," though one of the few times he wasn't spawned a nickname.

When Posada pinch ran for Wade Boggs in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS, Sheppard pronounced his name Po-SAH-Do, instead of Po-SAH-dah. "Derek started calling me 'Sado' after that,' " Posada said.

Posada recalled his next encounter with Sheppard, known for approaching new players to check on name pronunciations.

"He came down and asked me if I preferred George or Jorge," Posada said. "Then he asked me if I preferred Posado or Posada, and he started laughing."

Gene Monahan, who became the team's head trainer in 1973, said his reaction to hearing his name on Opening Day was always: "Oh my gosh, Bob Sheppard just said my name. It kind of gets you, man."

 

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