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.
“It was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, a man who has worked for George Steinbrenner and watched his teams play in the World Series.
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.
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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.
Mara recalled how Phil Rizzuto once asked Sheppard on TV during a rain delay for his fondest Yankee Stadium moment.
“Much to The Scooter’s dismay, Bob replied, ‘The day (Pat) Summerall kicked the field goal in the snow to beat Cleveland in 1958,’ ” Mara said.
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.
Mara believes Sheppard belongs in the baseball and football halls of fame.
“George Steinbrenner was a little intimidated by Bob, probably the only person on the planet because George was always in search of perfection, and Bob was perfect,” Cashman said after the service.
DUAL TRIBUTE PLANNED
The Yankees plan a tribute tonight to George Steinbrenner when the team returns home for the first time since the owner’s death.
The team said there will be pregame tributes to Steinbrenner and Sheppard before New York plays Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium. The ceremony will include a video tribute to Steinbrenner and a moment of silence in honor of both.
Wreaths will be placed in front of Steinbrenner’s statue outside the stadium and at Sheppard’s plaque in Monument Park.
The Boston Red Sox held a moment of silence at Fenway Park for Steinbrenner and Sheppard before Thursday night’s game against Texas.
Steinbrenner, the team’s owner since 1973, died Tuesday of a heart attack at age 80.
Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano, who has not been with the club since his June 25 dugout tirade that led to a verbal confrontation with teammate Derrek Lee, has completed has anger management sessions and reported to Arizona to resume throwing. … The U.S. Postal Service has released a set of stamps honoring early African-American baseball players and their contributions to the nation’s culture and history. … The San Francisco Giants signed former 20-game winner Dontrelle Willis, designated for assignment by Arizona earlier this month, to a minor league contract. … The Baltimore Orioles put catcher Matt Wieters on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. … The St. Louis Cardinals and general manager John Mozeliak have agreed to a three-year contract extension.