Yankees lose Queens-born ‘Voice of God’

New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard pauses from his work for a photograph before a game between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in 2006. Sheppard, known as "The Voice of God," died Sunday at age 99. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
By Howard Koplowitz

Bob Sheppard, the legendary public address announcer for the New York Yankees for 56 years and a Ridgewood native who was nicknamed “The Voice of God,” died Sunday at age 99, the team said.

Sheppard’s passing came two days before the death of longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died of a massive heart attack at age 80.

Born Oct. 20, 1910, in Ridgewood, Sheppard later moved to Richmond Hill, although a Yankees spokesman said he did not know when the move took place.

Sheppard, who was also known as “The Voice of the Yankees,” attended St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn and graduated from St. John’s College, later named St. John’s University, in 1932.

He received a full athletic scholarship to St. John’s and was the quarterback of the football team.

Before becoming the public address announcer for the Yankees, Sheppard was chairman of the speech department of John Adams High School in Ozone Park for more than 25 years and taught a speech course in 1937 to students at the St. John’s evening program. He also was an adjunct professor at St. John’s for more than three decades, the school said.

Sheppard made his public address announcer debut for the Yankees April 17, 1951, when the Bronx Bombers, including Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Phil Rizzuto, faced the Boston Red Sox.

The name of the first ballplayer introduced by Sheppard was DiMaggio’s brother, Dom DiMaggio, who led off the game for the Red Sox.

Among some of the games announced by Sheppard, who was also the voice of the New York Giants for 50 seasons, were Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Roger Maris’ 61st home run in 1961 and Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

Sheppard announced his last game at Yankee Stadium Sept. 5, 2007, when the Yanks defeated the Kansas City Royals 3-2.

Despite his death, Sheppard’s voice will live on.

At the request of Yankees captain and shortstop Derek Jeter, Sheppard’s voice was recorded after his retirement, so Jeter has been stepping up to the plate with Sheppard announcing him since 2007.

Sheppard also announced St. John’s basketball and football games during his professional career and came back to the Queens university in 2004 as a guest public announcer for the dedication of Carnesecca Arena.

He returned to St. John’s again in 2007 to serve as the public address announcer for the dedication of Jack Kaiser Stadium, the home of the St. John’s baseball team.

Jack Kaiser Stadium is named after the former St. John’s athletic director and baseball coach who the university said was a friend of Sheppard.

“We are obviously saddened to hear of Bob’s passing,” Kaiser said in a statement. “He was a true gentleman, a great teacher and a wonderful announcer. We will all miss him dearly.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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