Results tagged ‘ Bob Sheppard ’
Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the first game worked by public address announcer Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will conclude the homestand with an 8 p.m. game against the Rangers on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”
Back on April 17, 1951, the Yankees opened their season against the Red Sox. The game also marked the major-league debut of Mickey Mantle, who played right field and batted third in the order and had a single in four at-bats.
Sheppard, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, was the Stadium’s PA voice until late in the 2007 season before he was sidelined by illness. His voice is still heard at the Stadium whenever Derek Jeter steps to the plate. Sheppard recorded his announcement of Jeter and it continues to play before each of the Captain’s at-bats.
Bob worked 121 consecutive post-season games at the Stadium, including 62 games in the World Series, from 1951 to 2006. He also handled similar duties for the football Giants, who moved to Yankee Stadium from the Polo Grounds in 1956. Sheppard continued to do Giants games at their stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands through 2005, a total of 50 seasons.
Here are the lineups Bob introduced for that ’51 opener, won by the Yankees, 5-0.
Boston Red Sox New York Yankees
Dom DiMaggio, CF Jackie Jensen, LF
Billy Goodman, RF Phil Rizzuto, SS
Ted Williams, LF Mickey Mantle, RF
Vern Stephens, 3B Joe DiMaggio, CF
Walt Dropo, 1B Yogi Berra, C
Bobby Doerr, 2B Johnny Mize, 1B
Lou Boudreau, SS Billy Johnson, 3B
Buddy Rosar, C Jerry Coleman, 2B
Billy Wright, P Vic Raschi, P
The family of the late Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard expressed their gratitude to the people, many of them Yankees fans, who mourned his passing last month.
“Our family would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of condolences and support,” the statement read. “We continue to be touched by the kind words and wonderful memories that so many people have shared with us.
“We are humbled that Bob holds a special place in the hearts of so many individuals – from fans of the New York Yankees and New York football Giants to former students at John Adams High School and St. John’s University. Your kindness has inspired us during this difficult time.”
Fans of the Yankees and “Seinfeld” reruns may satisfy both pleasures this week as the TBS cable network will honor the memory of George Steinbrenner with classic episodes that featured the late principal owner from the series that had its initial nine-year run (1989-98) on NBC and is now seen in syndication.
The Boss did not portray himself in the show. An actor named Lee Bear was shot from the back usually seated at a big desk, and Steinbrenner’s voice was provided by head writer Larry David, who is now the star of his own “Curb Your Enthusiasm” sitcom on HBO.
One of the show’s lead characters, George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, lands a job with the Yankees as assistant traveling secretary. “The Opposite,” the finale of the fifth season in which Costanza gets hired, will begin the tribute week, which will end with “The Muffin Tops,” the last episode that featured the Steinbrenner character in which he trades Costanza for new chicken concessions at Yankee Stadium.
The schedule follows. Just disregard for the time being that in real life series star Jerry Seinfeld is a Mets fan who is a season ticket holder at Citi Field.
Monday, July 19: 7 p.m., “The Opposite” – George convinces Steinbrenner to give him a job; 7:30 p.m., “The Secretary” – George finds out Steinbrenner’s secretary makes more than he does.
Tuesday, July 20: 7 p.m., “The Race” – George heads to Cuba to recruit baseball players for Steinbrenner; 7:30 p.m., “The Wink” – Steinbrenner lists all the people he has fired over the years.
Wednesday, July 21: 7 p.m., “The Hot Tub” – Steinbrenner convinces George that a hot tub is the perfect way to relieve stress; 7:30 p.m., “The Caddy” – George’s father (Jerry Stiller) confronts Steinbrenner about a traded player.
Thursday, July 22: 7 p.m., “The Calzone” – Steinbrenner gets the idea to put Yankees clothes in a pizza oven; 7:30 p.m., “The Nap” – George’s napping habits at work lead Steinbrenner to think he has ESP.
Friday, July 23: 7 p.m., “The Millennium” – George does everything he can to get fired, but Steinbrenner loves what he does; 7:30 p.m., “The Muffin Tops” – George’s relationship with the Yankees finally ends when Steinbrenner trades him.
The “Bombers Boomer Broadway Softball Classic,” featuring Boomer Esiason and Broadway celebrities, had been scheduled for Monday at Yankee Stadium but has been canceled due to the deaths last week of Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard. Information regarding a possible rescheduling of the event will be released at a later date.
Joe Girardi is an understanding man, a lot more understanding that I would be if I were managing the Yankees and A.J. Burnett pulled the deal on me that he pulled on Girardi Saturday before a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium on an Old Timers’ Day devoted to the memory of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.
Forget for a minute how Boss George would have reacted to the news that one of his start pitchers averaging over $16 million a year in contract money punched himself out of the game before getting an out in the third inning. How about having to wait until the end of a brutal 10-5 loss to a Rays team on the heels of the Yankees in the American League East race to find out just what the heck happened?
Not only that. Girardi talked to the Fox broadcasters Kenny Albert and Tim McCarver during the game and said he would find out what happened to Burnett and send word back to them. The word that came later was that Burnett had fallen down the steps in the dugout, which turned out to be a lie.
This is not a politician’s blog, so I won’t say that Burnett misspoke. He lied. The tall tale he told was to the trainers so he could continue pitching even with lacerations on both of his hands. Girardi had his doubts, naturally, since he figured the only way someone could get cuts on their hands falling down steps would have been to dive down them.
Girardi still had a game to try to win. The Yankees were in a bad way for sure, but a 4-2 deficit in the third is not insurmountable. That the manager had to rely on the soft underbelly of his bullpen (Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin) is what took the game out of control, and that is Burnett’s fault. At least he pleaded guilty to that.
“I told Joe after the game that I was embarrassed and what really happened,” Burnett said. “I’ll apologize to all my teammates [Sunday].”
They deserve to hear that from Burnett, who finally admitted to Girardi after the game that his wounds were due to counter-punching the double doors leading to the clubhouse, which loosened some Plexiglas that sliced the fleshy portion of his palms just below the wrists. Never mind the suicide jokes. This is no laughing matter. Burnett did a stupid thing and then compounded it by trying to pitch after injuring his hands.
Yankees fans surely remember similar stupidity from Kevin Brown in September 2005 when he broke his pitching hand by venting his frustration in the same fashion, although he took on a brick wall. When will players realize that a wall or a door always wins that fight?
What Burnett did no matter how much his frustration may have seemed justified was to jeopardize the division chances of everyone in that clubhouse. That Girardi was not more upset than he let on was frankly a surprise to me.
Burnett is not some green kid but a 33-year-old veteran in his 12th big-league season. He should know better.
“It’s not something I want my players to do,” he said. “Mr. Steinbrenner called Paul O’Neill a warrior, and he hit more things than anybody.”
That almost sounds like justification. I was around for O’Neill’s entire time with the Yankees, and he never missed a game because of an injury related to his famous encounters with water coolers and light bulbs. Girardi said he does not expect Burnett to miss a start and that he’ll get an extra day because of Monday’s open date. That just means the Yankees got lucky. Burnett should know that, too, which is why an apology to his teammates is in order.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was a strange Old Timers’ Day Saturday at Yankee Stadium, and I had to agree with him except for different reasons.
“Obviously, two great Yankees are missing, so it will feel different,” Girardi said.
When I think of Old Timers’ Day, George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard do not come to mind. I do not recall the Boss being a central figure on that day, apart from the 1978 stunner when Billy Martin was announced as the future Yankees manager for 1980 not long after he had been fired.
Other than that, it seemed to be one day he stepped back and let the players of a bygone era have another day in the sun. Sheppard used to do the same as the Old Timers’ introductions were done on the field, for many years by Mel Allen and Frank Messer and more recently John Sterling and Michael Kay, who handled the duty again Saturday with Bob Wolff and Keith Olbermann providing comment on the exhibition game.
The ceremony Saturday, however, incorporated both Yankees icons who died last week. The Steinbrenner family was not present because they were attending a private service for the patriarch back home in Tampa, Fla. The day had a touch of elegance with the introduction of Mary Sheppard, Bob’s widow, among the celebrities.
Also absent from the proceedings was Yogi Berra, who took a tumble down the front steps of his home in Montclair, N.J., and could not participate. He broke no bones but suffered a nasty gash on his nose and some other bruises. “He appreciates all the well wishes and hopes to be up and about very soon,” was the statement from the Berra family.
Reggie Jackson, another Hall of Famer, almost didn’t come, either, but thankfully, he changed his mind.
“I’d rather not be here today,” Reggie said. “I’d rather pass. People in the leadership of the club thought I should be here.”
Yankees president Randy Levine urged Reggie to attend, and Mr. October put the day in perspective. Jackson knew both men well. His relationship with Sheppard was always cordial.
“Bob Sheppard was John Wooden-like just as John Wooden was Bob Sheppard-like in that you not only felt better when they were around but they had a similar concern for their fellow man, their family and their God,” Jackson said. “Bob worked with me on my Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He also told me on the day I received my [Monument Park] plaque that I could not keep my speech under two minutes. We made a 25-cent bet. I did the speech in 1 minute, 48 seconds, and Bob paid me the quarter. He was that voice in the sky. If they did make a movie about God and needed someone to do his voice, it would have to be Bob Sheppard.
Reggie’s relationship with Steinbrenner was to say the least complicated. They feuded a great deal during Jackson’s five seasons with the Yankees but developed a bond over the past 15 years that was severed so suddenly last week.
Recalling those “Bronx Zoo” years when George and Billy and Reggie provided more soap operas than a year’s worth of daytime television, Graig Nettles recalled, “I said, ‘Every boy wants to run away to the circus, and every boy wants to play major league baseball. With the Yankees, you can do both.’ George didn’t like that at the time. Each one wanted to be the boss and get all the attention. The writers would go past us to talk to George and Billy, but Reggie would trip some of them so they’d talk to him. That kept the rest of us out of the headlines. George put together the kind of team that could handle the chaos. Some later teams couldn’t handle it.”
“It was pretty tough when I heard about it,” Reggie said of Steinbrenner’s death. “I had just talked to him on his birthday [July 4]. It was a wonderful conversation. He was always positive. I knew his health wasn’t the same and the strength wasn’t there, but there was good conversation. So when I heard the news I just got caught off guard. I just got quiet for a couple of days.”
I tried to track Reggie down the day of the All-Star Game. I knew he was around somewhere. Frankly, he usually draws attention to himself at these events, but he was nowhere to be found.
“At the All-Star Game, I was supposed to be in the red carpet parade and on the field for some interviews,” he said. “I sat and watched the game for a few innings with [Angels owner] Arte Moreno and then with the commissioner. I didn’t want to say anything then because I could not have held it together very well.”
Jackson had trouble keeping his composure Saturday as well. He swelled up several times in talking about the Boss.
“He meant so much to so many people,” Reggie said. “His drive and desire to win brought the penultimate to the organization, the city of New York and the game of baseball. All his efforts were focused on winning regardless of the cost. Players see the difference in being a Yankee. Coming to New York, I had the career and success I did because of all the great players around me.
“How else could a .260 hitter [.263 actually] with more than 2,500 strikeouts [2,597] do some of the things I did. It was because of the way this ballclub was put together by Mr. Steinbrenner. We may have sprayed the ball around the fairway a lot, but we were putting it in the cup. If he said it once he said it a hundred times that letting me go was the biggest mistake he made. There are players who are tied with owners, and I am proud to be tied to him.”
Nick Swisher must think he is still campaigning for the All-Star Game. Suffice it to say he is not resting on his first-half laurels now that the 2010 All-Star Game is history.
Swish was all over Friday night’s 5-4 victory over the Rays at Yankee Stadium in some ways good and in some ways not. At the end, however, he put a bright face on a game that began with somber tones and ended with pie-in-the-face exhilaration.
As a bow to the memory of Bob Sheppard, the only public address announcements were of the starting lineups and nothing else for the remainder of the game. That meant the noise would have to come from elsewhere, preferably to the sellout crowd of 47,524 here to honor Sheppard and George Steinbrenner from Yankees bats.
But it was pretty quiet out there for a while. Tampa Bay starter James Shields beat the Yankees May 20 to improve his record to 5-1. He was 2-8 with a 6.87 ERA since then but continued to give the Yankees trouble allowing only one run through five innings. Swisher knocked in the run with sharp single past Rays first baseman Carlos Pena in the third.
Tampa Bay nickeled and dimed its way to three runs off CC Sabathia, who had runners on base in six of his seven innings. An error by Swisher, who misplayed a fly ball in the sixth, proved inconsequential. Sabathia was never better than in the seventh after the Yankees had tied the score the previous inning on two-out, solo home runs by Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada.
After B.J. Upton reached first on an infield hit, Carl Crawford singled to right. Swisher air-mailed his throw to third up the line missing the cutoff man along the way, and the Rays had runners at second and third with none out. The Yankees decided to walk Evan Longoria intentionally and take their chances with a force at each base. CC struck out Pena.
Upton’s speed allowed him to score on a grounder to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who wisely threw to first for the second out. Had he tried for Upton at the plate, A-Rod would have been late and lost the sure out. That would be it for the Rays as Kelly Stobbach grounded out.
One inning later, Swisher was in the middle of things again with a leadoff home run to tie the score. In the ninth, the Yankees got the potential winning run to second with one out. The moment seemed set up for Derek Jeter to be the hero, the same Jeter who represented the Yankees in a pre-game ceremony with a succinct speech about the qualities of both Steinbrenner and Sheppard. Jeter had a good at-bat against a tough reliever, Dan Wheeler, but he struck out.
Of course, you know who was up next. Swisher, naturally. The Rays turned to righthander Lance Cormier, who tried one too many sliders against Swisher, who singled off the third one to send home Curtis Granderson for the winner. It was somehow appropriate that Swisher was the hero, even though his time with the Yankees has been after the Boss’ direct involvement.
As manager Joe Girardi pointed out, “There were two things George Steinbrenner loved more than anything – his Yankees and his Buckeyes.”
So it was that Ohio-born and Ohio State University-educated Nick Swisher put the finishing touch on an important victory. On nights like this, the value of the game can seem diminished because attention appears to be focused on other things.
That was never the way George Steinbrenner saw it. He would have emphasized the final score. It means that Tampa Bay cannot leave town in first place in the American League East. We are past the All-Star Game and well out of the first half. The standings will now be studied closely every day. The Yankees won the sort of game Steinbrenner truly appreciated.
I gave credit to the Red Sox for their tribute to George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard Thursday night at Fenway Park, and the Boston club deserves it. But no club quite handles moments such as these as the Yankees. Friday night was no different as the Yankees paid tribute to the deceased icons movingly and tastefully in a pre-game ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
A five-minute video of Steinbrenner’s lengthy and largely successful career as the franchise’s principal owner was shown on the Mitsubishi screen. After which, the crowd stood in preparation for the playing of taps as the West Point Color Guard walked onto the field.
Mariano Rivera then came forward with two long-stemmed roses and placed them on the plate. After the playing of taps by Staff Sergeant Mikki Skinner, a bugler with the West Point Band, a tape of Sheppard was heard directing attention to the microphone behind the plate and the appearance of Derek Jeter. The captain gave a brief, poignant address about the legacy of the two larger than life figures.
“We gather here tonight to honor two men who were both shining stars in the Yankee universe. Both men, Mr. George Steinbrenner and Mr. Bob Sheppard, cared deeply about their responsibilities to this organization and to our fans, and for that, will forever be remembered in baseball history and in our hearts.
“Simply put, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard both left this organization in a much better place than when they first arrived. They’ve set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow.
“So now I ask everyone to join us in a moment of silence.”
Jeter’s role as team spokesman has been firmly established at times like these. Think of his eloquence the day of the last regular-season game at the old Stadium in September 2008. He has a sense of the moment that is fitting for such occasions.
After Jeter’s speech, United States Army Sergeant First Class Mary Kay Messenger delivered a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that the patriotic Boss would have applauded.
Paul Olden, Sheppard’s successor, read the starting lineups of the Rays and the Yankees, then told the crowd that in Sheppard’s honor there would be no more announcements during the game. A camera shot of the empty chair in the PA announcer’s booth was displayed on the screen.
The bleacher creatures got into the spirit of the evening and refrained from shouting out the roll call of the Yankees in the field that has become a first-inning ritual the past decade and a half or so. The lack of noise actually allowed fans the opportunity to speak among one another between pitches, which Sheppard surely would have enjoyed.
The media were all over the place at Yankee Stadium Friday night trying to get all the reaction they could about the passing of principal owner George Steinbrenner. The reality of the situation is that most of the players in uniform these days didn’t really know him. He has been out of the public eye largely for quite a few years now. Those who did have relationships with the Boss – Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and manager Joe Girardi, especially – gave their opinions during the All-Star Game break at Anaheim.
It is about an hour and a half before the tribute planned at Yankee Stadium for Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, the legendary public address announcer, is to start. I decided rather than waste my time talking to people who have no personal history with either man; I’ll share some thoughts with you about both.
I’ll start with Sheppard because this is easy. The most accurate description I heard of him the other day came from Gene Monahan, the Yankees’ trainer who has been a part of the organization for 37 years. Geno called Bob “the most polite man I have ever met in baseball.”
Perfect. It was my privilege on many occasions to sit at Bob’s table in the Stadium dining room and talk about topics ranging from baseball to literature. One night, the discussion centered on Joe DiMaggio and the fact that he was the subject of so many song lyrics, such as the 1940s hit, “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” and Paul Simon’s 1968 opus, “Mrs. Robinson.”
I mentioned the lyric Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in the song about the character Bloody Mary in “South Pacific,” one of the great shows in his long collaboration with Richard Rodgers.
Bloody Mary is the girl I love;
Her skin’s as tender as DiMaggio’s glove
I was surprised when Bob said he had not heard of that. He was practically an encyclopedia of theatrical language, so I figured he would know anything from such a classic. I let it pass. A few days later, Bob came up to me in the press box and said, “You know, I played my recording of ‘South Pacific’ last night and listened very closely to the song, ‘Bloody Mary.’ My God, I thought, Jack was right. I’ll have to let him know.’ And so I am. For the life of me, I cannot understand how I listened to that song over the years and never picked up the reference to DiMaggio.”
We were pals from then on. For years, the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America tried to get Sheppard to be a subject of our annual roasts in what is known as the Pre Dinner Dinner, an informal affair that is held about 10 days before the annual New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner. Bob attended other of our events, especially the Indoor Outing, a dance that he and wife Mary were our version of Vernon and Irene Castle.
He would never agree to being roasted, however. “I am flattered,” he told me, “but let me ask you this, Jack? Could my daughter attend this?”
Well, he had me there. Language at a roast can get pretty blue. One of Bob’s daughters is a Roman Catholic nun. I never bothered him about it again. Instead, we pushed to honor him at the big dinner one year with the William J. Slocum Long and Meritorious Award, and the standing ovation he received was one of the longest ever accorded an honoree.
Now on to the Boss; let me get it right out front that covering a team that was owned by George Steinbrenner was not as easy assignment for a beat writer because he was a beat all to himself. With other teams, owners are seldom seen and rarely heard. There have been exceptions, of course, such as Charlie Finley and Ted Turner. But they did not run the New York Yankees. The combination of Steinbrenner and the Yankees was a daily double of absolutely epic proportions.
Back in the day before mobile phone, texting, twittering and the like, contact with George was through regular phone lines. So on those days you needed to get him, you have to call his secretary, leave your number and wait for him to return the call. That meant you were a prisoner in your hotel room and couldn’t go anywhere for fear you’d miss his call, which he didn’t always make, anyway.
That reminds me of the line former publicist Harvey Greene had about George and the telephone. Harvey said that in his job there were only two reasons he got a phone call after midnight – it was either a death in the family or Mr. Steinbrenner trying to reach him. “It got to the point,” Harvey said, “that I started rooting for a death in the family.”
The weird thing about some phone conversations with George is that he never wanted to discuss what you wanted to talk about. “No, I’m not interested in that, but here’s something you should write instead,” he would say. He would be adamant about it, as if he were my sports editor.
His opening line to me was always the same, “O’Connell, this is George, you know, my mother was Irish.” He only told me this about 380 times. Then he’d follow that with, “How’s the elevator running?”
The elevator situation at old Yankee Stadium was basically my introduction to the Steinbrenner world. I had been covering the Mets for four years at the Bergen Record in New Jersey when I was asked to switch to the Yankees after the All-Star break in 1983. Our Yankees writer, Filip Bondy, had just gone to the Daily News. With the Mets out of contention, I was moved to the Yankees, who were challenging the Orioles for the American League East.
With the Mets, I never had to call Nelson Doubleday or Fred Wilpon. With the Yankees, if they lost three or four games in a row, reporters had to call Steinbrenner. I covered a Detroit Tigers team in 1975 that lost 19 games in a row at one point and not once did I pick up the phone and dial John Fetzer’s number.
One of the problems I was confronted with at Yankee Stadium was that there was not an express elevator run from the press box to the clubhouse after games, which was the case at nearly every other ballpark in the major leagues, including Shea Stadium. There was no stairwell to use, either, so writers had to wait while on deadline or head down the ramps where they were forced to wade through clusters of fans exiting the Stadium.
As a chapter officer in the BBWAA, the more I looked into what could be done about this the more frustrated I got. Everybody passed the buck. But I was now around the Yankees long enough to realize there could be one possible solution, so I got hold of some BBWAA stationery and wrote a detailed letter to Steinbrenner because I had become convinced that he was the only guy who could get anything done around here.
It was probably the line about the Yankees not doing something that the Mets did regularly that shot him into action. By the next homestand, by order of the owner there were two express runs of the elevator for the press immediately after games. If you didn’t make it, that was too bad. It was good enough for me.
My other favorite George story revolves around the 1984 Winter Meetings in Houston. My paper had been late in applying for credentials. I was unable to get a room in the headquarters hotel and was booked in another hotel a few blocks away. On the flight out of Newark I happened to be on the same plane as Bill “Killer” Kane, the Yankees’ travel director who I got to know in my brief time with the team.
Killer said he had a car and would drive me into town. On the way, he told me to come with him and he’d set me up with a room at the regular hotel. Get this. The room turned out to be Steinbrenner’s suite.
“George doesn’t like to come to these things for more than a day,” Killer told me. “He won’t be here until Monday. By then, a room will open for you, and we’ll move you. In the meantime, enjoy, but don’t touch anything!”
This was on a Saturday, which went well. There was a huge, covered fruit basket and a magnum of champagne on a table. They were tempting, but I left them alone. Come Sunday morning, everything changed. The phone rang
early. It was Killer.
“Jackie, you gotta vacate that room,” he said. “Just pack up and get out in the hallway. George changed his plans. He’s on his way here. He just called me from the limo.”
Fortunately, the ride from the Houston airport to downtown is nearly an hour, which gave me time to pack up and get out of there. But to where? I envisioned having to sleep in the lobby until Monday. Somehow, Killer found me a room and met me in the hallway with a key for a room down the hall. I reached the room just moments before the elevator (another elevator yet) door opened and Steinbrenner stormed out heading for the suite.
Later in the day, I asked Killer how everything went. “Not bad,” he said. “George just doesn’t know why he keeps getting phone messages for Jack O’Connell.”
That was a private story between Killer and me before he allowed me to tell it at a roast we had for George at the Stadium in the late 1990s, and nobody laughed heartier at the tale than the Boss himself.
When I came off the beat to become the national baseball columnist at the Hartford Courant in 2000, George called to congratulate me for what he knew was a promotion. I was stunned. I was nowhere near as close to him as some of the other writers.
“I wish you luck, but I’ll miss you,” George told me. “There are too many new faces in the press box. I kind of hate to see an old one go; stay in touch.”
I have to admit that in recent years I have missed George, but in all honesty I do not miss covering the Yankees when he was around. Believe me when I say I am sure he understands.
Red Sox Nation took time away from its disdain for anything Yankee to pay tribute to the late principal owner of the organization known in Boston as the “Evil Empire.” That is what team president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees after they beat out the Red Sox to sign Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras years ago, but Thursday night at Fenway Park the rivalry took a back seat to respect and appreciation in a salute to George Steinbrenner.
The main force that fueled a franchise that tormented the Red Sox over the years from Bucky Dent in 1978 to Aaron Boone in 2003 right down to snaring Mark Teixeira was honored with a moment of silence before the Red Sox-Rangers game before a crowd of some 37,000 people at Fenway. The Boss would have approved. A military guard marched onto the field while images of Steinbrenner and longtime Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard, who also died last week, were shown on the Fenway video board.
Members of the Red Sox and Rangers stood in front of their respective dugouts, removed their caps and bowed their heads just as if Sheppard himself might have instructed them. The normally boisterous crowd responded in kind.
“George elevated our rivalry and was a great competitor and a very important person in baseball because he made the Yankee brand a lot stronger than when he took over the team,” Red Sox board chairman Tom Werner said. “It’s appropriate for us to honor him. What he did for the Yankee brand was to make it one of the most admired not just in sports, but in America.”
You’ve got to admit that it was pretty classy of the Red Sox.
Fans attending Friday night’s game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and American League East rival Tampa Bay are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. for a pre-game ceremony to honor the memory of former principal owner George Steinbrenner and longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard, who both died earlier this week.
The tribute will include a video presentation of the Boss’ life and career and a special moment of silence saluting the two team icons. Additional acknowledgments of the accomplishments of Steinbrenner and Sheppard will be unveiled during Friday night’s ceremony.
United States Army Sergeant First Class Mary Kay Messenger will sing the national anthem, and the West Point Color Guard will present the colors. A wreath will be placed in front of Steinbrenner’s statue in the Gate 2 Executive Lobby of the Stadium as well as in front of Sheppard’s plaque in Monument Park.
Tributes to Sheppard are scheduled at the 64th annual Old-Timers’ Day Saturday. Prior to the introductions of more than 40 former Yankees players and coaches in attendance, the Yankees will honor Sheppard with a video tribute. Additionally, the Yankees will recognize Sheppard with a special performance during the seventh-inning stretch.
Sheppard began his tenure as the Yankees’ public address announcer April 17, 1951 and held the post until Sept. 5, 2007. Over his career, he announced many of the Old-Timers expected to be in attendance Saturday. Gates will open to ticket-holding fans at 12:30 p.m. with introductions scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., followed by the traditional Old-Timers’ game. Monument Park will close to fans at 3:15 p.m.