BALDWIN, N.Y. (AP) - Bob Sheppard considered himself a speech teacher more than a public address announcer, enlightening students about the importance of diction and elocution.
So imagine the pressure of speaking at his funeral.
At his beloved St. Christopher's Church on Long Island on Thursday, Sheppard was remembered for his “distinguished and dignified voice,” as Giants owner John Mara put it. Sheppard, who introduced players at Yankee Stadium for more than half a century, died Sunday at 99.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the estimated 900 mourners. Cashman, Mara and former St. John’s basketball coach Lou Carnesecca gave eulogies. While Sheppard was best known for providing the sonorous soundtrack to Yankees games, his other employers included the NFL’s Giants and his St. John’s alma mater.
Sheppard never had a contract in his 50 years with the Giants; he and the late Wellington Mara needed only a handshake.
Sheppard’s coffin, draped in an American flag, was carried into the church on a gray morning. During the service, two fire trucks hoisted a giant flag opposite the entrance to St. Christopher’s. A large Yankees banner was unfurled from one of the vehicles.
Fans in Yankees jerseys and T-shirts gathered outside the church as the service was broadcast over loudspeakers. Media were not allowed inside. One man held a sign that read, “Long Live the Voice.”
Reggie Jackson dubbed him “The Voice of God,” though Sheppard preferred to avoid such bluster.
“He never could understand how anyone would want his autograph,” his oldest son, Paul, said.
He loved to tell stories about when he wasn’t perfect, like the halftime of a chilly Army-Navy football game when he watched John F. Kennedy walk across the field. Not aware his microphone was on, Sheppard blurted out, “The president doesn’t have a topcoat.”