Consider yourself fortunate if you had a chance to visit Yankee Stadium and hear the voice of Bob Sheppard introducing the players.
Not only did you see a glimpse of baseball history, you also got to hear some.
Sheppard, who literally introduced Mickey Mantle to the major leagues in 1951 and still could be heard saying Derek Jeter's(notes) name during the Yankees' recent homestand, died Sunday. He was 99 years old.
"He was the one constant at Yankee Stadium," Jeter said via the Star Ledger. "He was part of the experience."
At least two of the names in Mantle's first lineup — Jerry Coleman and Yogi Berra — are expected in the Bronx on Saturday for Old-Timer's Day. Also expect a substantial Sheppard tribute to be part of the festivities.
I heard Sheppard in person three times, including once as a teenager with my mom. Despite an allegiance to another team, we both were Bob Sheppard fans because we could always hear him in the background on TV. After hearing him once, you were hooked.
Live and in person, Reggie Jackson was right — it did sound like the "Voice of God" was talking to you.
Even if you rooted against the Yankees, it was easy looking forward to Bob Sheppard, who said he just wanted to be "clear, concise and correct."
He was also regal, classic and enduring.
Sheppard used to say that he preferred to pronounce a name such as "Shigetoshi Hasegawa" because there wasn't any melody to "Steve Sax" Or "Mickey Klutts." Not that there was anything wrong with those names, Sheppard would add with a laugh.
Now, there's a guy who was thoughtful about his job while having a sense of humor about it, too.
Shortly before Sheppard became too ill to work, late in the 2007 season, Jeter asked that Sheppard's voice be saved and used for his at-bats. Heck, as CNBC's Darren Rovell pointed out, it would be possible — using modern technology — to hear Sheppard's voice calling out the lineups at Yankee Stadium in perpetuity. Now, it seems like a stretch that the Yankees would ever do this, but it's possible.
When the Yankees return home on Friday, it might be eerie to hear Sheppard at first — now that he's gone forever. But I think Jeter did everyone a favor with his request.
As long as Jeter plays, we'll hear Sheppard. Good for us.
• For a brief but fun remembrance of Sheppard, check out the info box on this page written by ESPN's Buster Olney, a former Yankees beat reporter.
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