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By all indications, the new venue will be a wonderful ballpark and its exterior, much like Citi Field in Flushing, has an old-school feel to it. But there's nothing quite like the original and Yankee Stadium will be missed for many reasons. One of the biggest, at least for me, is to hear Bob Sheppard's voice emanating throughout baseball's cathedral. Sheppard, the Voice of the Yankees, missed his second home opener ever Tuesday because of a throat ailment. The Richmond Hill native was forced out of last year's American League Division Series in October because of a bronchial infection. In his place then, and now, is his longtime backup, Jim Hall, who, like Sheppard, was a speech professor at St. John's University.On his best day, Hall sounds almost exactly like Sheppard, so much so that at a St. John's football game a few years ago, a young fan stood outside the press box atop DaSilva Memorial Stadium waiting to meet Sheppard. St. John's Director of Communications Dom Scianna, then the sports information director, had to inform the disappointed fan that the voice he heard was actually Hall's.Nothing against Hall, but there is only one Bob Sheppard. A 1932 St. John's graduate, and former quarterback of the football team and first baseman on the baseball team, Sheppard has been the voice of Yankee Stadium for more than 50 years. His first Opening Day was in 1951, the lone year Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio shared the outfield together. Dubbed the "Voice of God" by Reggie Jackson, Sheppard hopes to return by midseason and, although believed to be in his 90s - he's kept his age and date of birth a secret for decades - Sheppard would also like to be in the public address booth in the new Yankee Stadium.But if Sheppard has announced his last game, his unmistakable and distinct voice will be heard as long as Derek Jeter plays for the Yankees. While Hall announced every other player stepping to the plate for the Yankees and Indians series, a recording of Sheppard blared for Jeter's at-bats. And will continue to do so. "It's unfortunate, because one of the first things I looked forward to when I was called up was coming to Yankee Stadium and hearing him say my name," Jeter told reporters Monday. "I had Bob Sheppard record introducing me. I'll always come to the plate with Bob Sheppard."Sheppard was also the voice of the New York football Giants for five decades and worked the public address at Alumni Hall at St. John's University for 15 years. He taught speech at Grover Cleveland High and, after serving as a Navy lieutenant in World War II, and was the chair of the speech department at John Adams HS.Sheppard returned to St. John's in May to help honor close friend Jack Kaiser, who had the baseball field there renamed to Kaiser Stadium. In fact, a recording of Sheppard welcomes fans to Jack Kaiser Stadium."I echo what everybody else said," Sheppard said. "He is one of the most outstanding men I have ever met in my life."That snippet on my digital recorder will never be erased. Sheppard has had a long and storied history, holding various positions. But for most, including everyone who has ever walked through the turnstiles in the Bronx, he is but one thing."Bob Sheppard," Jorge Posada told reporters Monday, "is the Yankees."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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