The New York Yankees wouldn’t be the franchise they are today without the contributions of two men who changed the franchise forever: George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. Steinbrenner became one of the game’s most present, daring and successful owners and turned the Yankees from a scuffling organization into the most valuable baseball entity around, while Sheppard provided the voice of the team at three different iterations of Yankee Stadium for over 56 years and for millions of fans.
Today marks 10 years since Steinbrenner’s passing, and his legacy, along with Sheppard’s — who passed away two days earlier on July 11, 2010 — continue to be felt by Yankees fans.
It was All-Star Week at Anaheim in 2010, and eight Yankees had been named to the festivities. As the defending champions, Joe Girardi was also present to manage the American League squad. The Yankees were well-represented at the Midsummer Classic, just how Steinbrenner liked it. Unfortunately, the Yankees received some sad news early that morning. “The Boss” had died of a heart attack, leaving the Yankees Universe shaken.
Steinbrenner had not been at full health for some time, and had appointed his son Hal as the leader of the Yankees’ day-to-day operations before 2009. Under the younger Steinbrenner’s lead, the Yankees were able to win the 2009 World Series, and dedicated the victory to the Yankees’ patriarch. At the time of Steinbrenner’s passing, the Yankees were again in first place in the AL East.
The Yankees wouldn't have had eight representatives at the All-Star Game if not for Steinbrenner's management. Although he had a notoriously quick trigger finger for firing managers and moving on from prospects, Steinbrenner’s advisors convinced him to hang onto the “Core Four,” and Steinbrenner's orders to field a winning team, no matter the cost, led to several expensive free agent acquisitions and high-profile trades that made the Yankees a perennial powerhouse.
Over his 37 years with the club, the Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles. He bought a baseball team for $8.8 million in 1973, and turned it into a $5 billion global enterprise. The Yankees still signify success today, and that reputation came in large part from what Steinbrenner did as a manager and businessman.
Steinbrenner had some missteps along the way, including a lengthy playoff drought highlighted by constant on-field turnover, illegal political contributions in the 1970s and a temporary ban from baseball after paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner’s reputation recovered however, thanks in large part to his charitable efforts and his ability to consistently field winners on the baseball field.
The game of baseball has changed since Steinbrenner died. Big data has changed how teams evaluate their rosters and spend their money, and the game centers less around gut decisions than ever. The Yankees haven’t won a championship since Steinbrenner passed away, but their current business model has them positioned for success. The times may change, but George Steinbrenner’s influence will never completely leave the Yankees, nor should it.
Although Steinbrenner’s impact was more tangible, the loss of Bob Sheppard hit the Yankees just as hard. Simply put, Bob Sheppard made Yankee Stadium. His dulcet tone welcomed fans to the stadium and gathered their attention when it was time to hear the lineups. Sheppard was a legend among public address announcers for his attention to detail and clarity on the mic. He was with the Yankees for 56 years and the New York Football Giants for 50, and summed up his philosophy as simply and humbly as possible:
"My purpose in public address & in speech is really encapsulated in three C's: Clear. Concise. Correct. No overblowing rhetoric or anything like that. As simple as possible. Clear, concise & correct." - Bob Sheppard— Justin Shackil (@JustinShackil) July 11, 2020
Yankee Stadium's fabled PA announcer passed 10 years ago today.
Sheppard’s voice continued to be heard at Yankees games through 2014, with Derek Jeter opting to use Sheppard’s introduction recording for the rest of his career. Reggie Jackson once called Sheppard the “Voice of God,” and his influence extends to PA announcers to this day, who strive for Sheppard’s blend of gravitas, simplicity and accuracy.
★ ★ ★
The Yankees were back in New York three days later, and celebrated Sheppard’s and Steinbrenner’s legacies with a pregame ceremony. The Yankees then went out and performed, notching a walk-off victory over the Rays courtesy of Nick Swisher. It was the perfect way to cap an emotional night, reminiscent of Bobby Murcer’s walk-off after Thurman Munson’s death in 1979. For one more night, the Yankees produced the magic that they are revered for.
10 years later, Hal Steinbrenner has the Yankees on a successful track, and Paul Olden has become synonymous as the voice of the new Yankee Stadium. However, it’s still hard to believe that it’s been a decade since George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard passed away. Their impact helped turn the Yankees into what they are now, and will never be diminished over time.