Wednesday, July 14, 2010

RIP, George and Bob

TigerBlog knows a guy who was with his family in Boston to see the Yankees play the Red Sox a long time ago.

Though TB doesn't remember the exact story, since he hasn't talked to the guy in about 15 years or so, it went something like this: He was sitting in the lobby of the hotel wearing his Yankees hat when George Steinbrenner came by, saw his hat and bought him an ice cream cone.

As you might expect, it made him a Yankees fan forever.

TigerBlog's least favorite professional sports team is the New York Yankees (or the Miami Heat, but that's a relatively new thing), a team that owes much of its success to the overwhelming economic advantage it has over the rest of the sport. In fact, if baseball's union wasn't so strong, the sport would have some sort of salary accountability from team-to-team, and the Yankees wouldn't be able to simply outspend everyone.

As an aside, the Yankees' 2010 payroll is $206,333,389; the next-highest is the Red Sox at $162,747,333. The Yankees spend more than the bottom six teams (Pirates, Padres, A's, Rangers, Marlins and Diamondbacks) - and two of those teams (Texas and San Diego) are in first place at the all-star break.

Despite that, TB has always liked Steinbrenner, who passed away yesterday at the age of 80. Maybe it's the story about the ice cream cone, which has led TB to think that Steinbrenner was probably a pretty good guy away from the spotlight.

Maybe it was the way he wanted to win and was willing to do what it took to make it happen. Or, maybe it was the way Larry David portrayed him on Seinfeld.

If nothing else, Steinbrenner had to have a sense of humor, what with the Miller Lite commercials he made through the years.

It's been a rough week for the Yankees, who lost two of their franchise icons in a short time. Steinbrenner's death came just two days after the death at age 99 of Bob Sheppard, the longtime public address announcer for the Yankees and the Giants (TB's favorite professional team).

A look at Sheppard's bio on Wikipedia revealed all kinds of information that TB didn't know. For instance, Sheppard was a Naval office in World War II who commanded gun boats in the Pacific. Also, he was a teacher at St. John's for years.

The first game he did as PA announcer for the Yankees was in 1951, the home opener against the Red Sox. The game featured eight future Hall-of-Famers.

TB is pretty sure that Sheppard did the PA for a Trenton State-Montclair State football game in the late '80s.

Sheppard was known for his straightforward style and his unflinching devotion to using proper speech, proper phrasing and professional objectivity. In the current environment of public address announcing, it's a style that almost is extinct.

He was often imitated, with the rhythmic cadence of his player introductions.

In fact, he was one of TB's two favorite PA announcers of all-time, though he was clearly No. 2 on that list.

No. 1? That honor will be always be reserved for John McAdams, the late voice of the Philadelphia Big Five and just about every other team in the greater Philadelphia area. Princeton was fortunate to have McAdams as a PA voice for football, sprint football and soccer, among other sports.

The death of Sheppard came five years after McAdams passed away, which means that TB's favorite living PA announcer is, well, TB.

TigerBlog has done PA at Princeton for men's and women's basketball, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's hockey, field hockey and sprint football. When McAdams passed away, TB stopped doing radio to do PA for football, something he continues to do.

TigerBlog has tried to pattern his style after that of Sheppard and McAdams, rather than try to make himself a part of the show. It hasn't always been successful, as he was once told he was "brain-dead" as an announcer.

Still, TB feels that more people want to hear an announcer like a McAdams or a Sheppard, rather than someone who is completely over-the-top. That, as much as his longevity, is why people have spoken so highly about Sheppard in the days following his death.

TB has a friend who emailed him a cartoon yesterday that said this: "In honor of George Steinbrenner's death, hate the Yankees a little less today."

TB will always root against the Yankees, maybe more than usual. After all, George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, TB's two favorite members of the organization, are no longer with us.

George had his flaws (some of them were legal issues), but he gave everything he had to the franchise.

And Bob Sheppard? He was a total class act.


Anonymous said...

Steinbrenner is indirectly responsible for two of my fondest baseball memories: Reggie Jackson's three first-pitch home runs in the world series to steal the spotlight from George and Billy Martin and George Brett's Pine Tar eruption, surely baseball's most indelible mad rush. Both of these incidents were the climax of the Steinbrenner engendered soap opera drama and fitting punctuations. Give The Boss credit--he got press.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Steinbrenner was truly, as the Wall Street journal noted, a "bombastic" character. Just the type that makes the wide world of sports interesting and colorful.