Sports: Names of the Game

Good af-ter-noon pause ladies short pause and gen-tle-men long pause. Welcome short pause to Yankee Stadium.

Bob Sheppard has been the announcer at Yankee Stadium since 1951, Joe DiMaggio’s last season and Mickey Mantle’s first. “We don’t discuss age,” he says, though a good guess would put him well into his eighties. Every Yankees fan knows his elegantly cool, utterly low-key, and very, very deliberate vocal pattern. A speech teacher and semipro quarterback in the 1940s, he took a football announcing job after college, which led to a temporary gig in the Bronx (he does Giants games in the Meadowlands, too). And fifty Opening Days later, he’s still behind the mike.

Please rise pause … for our nation’s short pause anthem.

A Yankees executive, Lonn Trost, pops into the booth, and Sheppard asks about the pronunciation of his name. “Is it Trohst? Trust? Trawst?” They confer; the matter is complicated because the executive has a pronounced New York accent. They settle on Trohst, because it takes nicely to enunciation. Says Sheppard, “Names are important to me. I like to say pause Alfonso Soriano. Salome Barojas. José Valdivielso.” Every syllable hangs in the air like a piece of ripe fruit. “There isn’t much beauty in the name Chuck Knoblauch. And what can you do with Steve Sax?

The center fielder pause No. 51 pause Bernie short pause Williams.

The pauses aren’t there to accommodate the stadium’s echoes, as many think. “I talk slowly all the time,” he says, slowly. “I don’t change my manner of speaking doing public announcing, talking with my family, or speaking with you. Once in a while, people getting married will get in touch with my agent and ask me to tape the names of the wedding party as they march in.”

The catcher pause No. 20 pause Jor-ge short pause Posada.

Has anyone ever tried to steal Sheppard away? “I was offered a very lucrative contract to do the Mets as well as the Yankees. They said, ‘They don’t conflict in the schedule.’ I said, ‘I’m very happy doing 81 games – 162 would be work.’ It’s recreation for me – it’s an honor. Thousands of men all over New York would love to have this job.”

Sports: Names of the Game