Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner 1930 - 2010 and Bob Sheppard 1910 - 2010

Tough week for old Yankees.

George Steinbrenner, whose big wallet and win-at-all-cost attitude whipped the New York Yankees into a billion-dollar sports empire, died Tuesday. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4. ...

In 37-plus seasons as owner, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.

"He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. ...

Steinbrenner's death on the day of the All-Star game was the second in three days to rock the Yankees. Bob Sheppard, the team's revered public address announcer from 1951-07, died Sunday at 99.

More from the NYT, the NYDN, and the Chron's Richard Justice. The Times ...

In the frenetic ’70s and ’80s, when general managers, field managers and pitching coaches were sent spinning through Steinbrenner’s revolving personnel door (Billy Martin had five stints as manager), the franchise became known as the Bronx Zoo. In December 2002, Steinbrenner’s enterprise had grown so rich that the president of the Boston Red Sox, Larry Lucchino, frustrated over losing the pitcher Jose Contreras to the Yankees, called them the “evil empire.”

But Steinbrenner — who came to be known as the Boss — and the Yankees thrived through all the arguments, all the turmoil, all the bombast. Having been without a pennant since 1964 when Steinbrenner bought them, enduring sagging attendance while the upstart Mets thrived, the Yankees once again became America’s marquee sporting franchise.

And this:

(Steinbrenner) was lampooned, with his permission, by a caricature in the sitcom “Seinfeld,” portrayed by the actor Lee Bear, who was always photographed from behind at the Boss’s desk, flailing his arms and suitably imperious, while Larry David, the show’s co-creator, provided the voice. George Costanza (Jason Alexander) became the assistant to the team’s traveling secretary, whose duties included fetching calzones for Steinbrenner.

Steinbrenner also appeared in a Visa commercial with Jeter, calling him into his office to admonish him. “You’re our starting shortstop,” Steinbrenner said. “How can you possibly afford to spend two nights dancing, two nights eating out and three nights just carousing with your friends?” Jeter responded by holding up a Visa card. Steinbrenner exclaimed “Oh!” and the scene shifted to Steinbrenner in a dance line with Jeter at a night spot.


Bob Sheppard, whose elegant intonation as the public-address announcer at Yankee Stadium for more than half a century personified the image of Yankees grandeur, died Sunday at his home in Baldwin, on Long Island. He was 99. ...

From the last days of DiMaggio through the primes of Mantle, Berra, Jackson and Jeter, Sheppard’s precise, resonant, even Olympian elocution — he was sometimes called the Voice of God — greeted Yankees fans with the words, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Yankee Stadium.” ...

Sheppard did not feel strong enough to attend the ceremony marking the final game at the old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008, but he announced the Yankees’ starting lineup that night in a tape recording. His recorded voice still introduces Derek Jeter at the plate, a touch the Yankees’ captain requested to honor Sheppard. ...

He was hired by the baseball Yankees in 1951, and soon fans were hearing Sheppard’s pronunciation of “Joe Di-Mah-ggio.”

“I take great pride in how the names are pronounced,” Sheppard said. He seldom entered the clubhouses, but made certain to check directly with a visiting player if he had any doubt on the correct way to pronounce his name.

“Mick-ey Man-tle” was a favorite of his, but as Sheppard once told The Associated Press: “Anglo-Saxon names are not very euphonious. What can I do with Steve Sax? What can I do with Mickey Klutts?”

He enjoyed announcing the name of the Japanese pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa and the names of Latin players, particularly pitcher Salome Barojas and infielder Jose Valdivielso.

Sheppard feared he would trip over his pronunciation of Wayne Terwilliger, an infielder who played at Yankee Stadium with the Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics in the 1950s. “I worried that I would say ‘Ter-wigg-ler’ but I never did,” he recalled.

But there was at least one flub.

When the football Giants played their first game at the Meadowlands, against the Dallas Cowboys in October 1976, Sheppard told the crowd: “Welcome to Yankee Stadium.” ...

Sheppard had his imitators, most notably the ESPN broadcaster Jon Miller.

“One day when my wife and I were down in St. Thomas, we went into a restaurant,” Sheppard told The Village Voice in 2002. “I told the waitress, ‘I’ll have the No. 1. Scrambled eggs, buttered toast and black coffee. No. 1.’ My wife looked at me and said. ‘You sound like Jon Miller’s imitation.’ I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I was ordering the same way I’d introduce Billy Martin.”

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