Two Legends Lost

Last week, the New York Yankees lost two legendary figures – one, in iconic public address announcer Bob Sheppard, the other, in larger-than-life owner George Steinbrenner. In terms of personality, the two couldn’t have been more polar opposites. In terms of impact on arguably the most famous sports franchise in history, their respective losses have shaken the very foundation of the team and its fans.

Quite a number of years ago – ten, I believe – I had the opportunity to see Mr. Sheppard up close and personal, as I was waiting outside the players’ entrance prior to the start of a Division Series game versus Seattle. While the sight of the likes of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and others surely drew bigger cheers from the small crowd assembled, I remember being especially enthralled by Sheppard’s arrival.  

Dressed impeccably from head to toe, he appeared taller in person than I had expected, thin and spry, with a fedora to match his winter coat. Dapper and classy, he simply exuded history. Watching him pass by, I couldn’t help but imagine all the legendary players and coaches he had introduced over the last 50 years. He arrived alone, walking briskly by (all 90 years-old that he was), pausing to greet the security personnel and giving a cheerful wave and smile to those who called out his name.  

A legend in the flesh.

In recent years, I have taken to recording certain moments at those Yankee games I have attended, feeling that video so much more adequately captures the feel of the game – as opposed to those still frames where the players more resemble ants on a diamond. I’m hoping, upon review, that I have at least one clip which captures his voice, that perfect intonation and flawless pronunciation. How nice it would be to have that treasure preserved.

As for Mr. Steinbrenner, well, I can’t say that I ever saw him in person, much less interacted with him, though I’m fairly certain he was “in the house” during at least a few of the games I attended over the years. But that was the thing. His presence was felt regardless, looming over the Stadium, and the team. You knew that every employee was under the watch of, if not the man himself, one of his trusted staffers. Say what you will about his tyrannical ways, the exorbitant payroll and his “win at any cost” mentality – the entire operation was run with class and precision, and the fans were given what they paid for… a team to root for, in good times and bad.

In the days following The Boss’s passing, I read countless comments online and in print, sent in by fans. One imagined the greeting Bob Sheppard – often referred to as “The Voice of God” appropriately enough – would give upon George Steinbrenner’s arrival: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Heaven. Now Arriving, The Boss, George Steinbrenner, The Boss.”

How fitting.


{Published: July 21st, 2010}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment