On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS September 8, 2014 #505 Up next…”Now batting (pause) #2”
After review…“Now batting (pause) shortstop (pause) numbah two (pause) Derek Jee-tah (pause) numbah two)”. Thus spoke the legendary New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard, every time “The Captain” approached the plate. This month of September will comprise the final “at bats” for the 20-year Yankee veteran. Sheppard died in 2010 just 100 days short of his 100th birthday, yet Jeter continued to use that recorded introduction every time he stepped into the batters’ box at Yankee Stadium with Sheppard’s dignified monotone and just a touch of “New Yawk”.
Because of Jeter’s tireless clutch performances on the field, both are legends in my mind. The genesis of my admiration occurred around the age of 9 or 10 when I became a Yankees fan. Each night as I went to bed listening to the voice of Mel Allen on the radio (television was still a rookie) as he announced names of Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Red Ruffing, and many other exalted Yankees. My dream as a young ball player was to pitch for the Yankees -–an ambition never reached.
However, I did stand on the mound at the original Yankee stadium. No, I wasn’t the starting pitcher or even a reliever and, no, the Yankees weren’t playing. 1960 was my first year as an NFL official. I was assigned as the Field Judge for a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants. Our officiating crew of five took the “D” train from mid-Manhattan to the Bronx and walked a couple of blocks to the stadium locker room entrance.
Arriving in the officials’ locker room, I set my officiating bag down and walked down the tunnel, into the 1st base dugout (the one the Yankees used), up four steps and straight to the pitcher’s mound. The mound had been removed as it was in the end zone of the football field, but I took a stretch windup and threw the imaginary pitch—right down the pipe!
Sheppard was also the announcer for the New York Giants. I can still hear (and feel) his smooth and distinctively-timed elocution describing an offensive foray: “Gifford (pause) right tackle (pause) for six”. Sheppard and Jeter are forever linked in my mind as true practitioners of Yankee class, whether or not they get plaques in Monument Park.
Will you aspire to the understated excellence of Sheppard and Jeter?
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