Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bob Sheppard - Rest In Peace

There was a piece in the Times about the religious side of Sheppard's life.
I'm posting it as a comment so it can live a little longer.


Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

July 15, 2010
Sheppard Was Always About The Word

Bob Sheppard was honored in his parish church on Thursday as a loved one, a neighbor, a teacher. Only tangentially was there much indication that he was a one-of-a-kind celebrity, a public man.

He was home, and he was going home, and that was more important than the fact that millions knew his voice.

Robert Leo Sheppard, who died Sunday morning, three months short of 100, was honored by people who acknowledged his gift and aura. But they indicated that his grace came from deep within, not merely reflected from the great players he observed.

Yes, he was the longtime public-address announcer at Yankee Stadium, starting in 1951, and he was associated with the epic moments he punctuated with the skill of his eyes and the crispness of his diction. But he was also a man of faith. That seemed to inspire people, too, and not just because this was his funeral and it was appropriate to be in a religious mood.

His family was here — his wife, Mary; his sons, Paul and Christopher; and his daughters, Barbara Derenowski and Sister Mary Sheppard — but not a single person who ever wore a Yankees uniform was spotted in the Church of St. Christopher. That made sense given that the Yankees do not return from the All-Star break until Friday, and the organization has been preoccupied by the death on Tuesday of its Boss, George Steinbrenner.

Brian Cashman, the team’s general manager, represented the Yankees. With warmth and respect, he noted Sheppard’s sign-off after every home game: “He thanked us in a prayerlike way and told us to get home safely.”

John Mara represented the Giants — “the New York football Giants,” as Mara recalled Sheppard saying — and Lou Carnesecca represented St. John’s University, where Sheppard earned varsity letters in baseball and football. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was in the crowd and, in the spirit of homecoming, the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who has been absent from Yankee Stadium since one indiscreet public moment, volunteered to travel from Boston and sing two hymns, and was welcomed by the Sheppard family.

A crowd of curious fans listened via a loudspeaker on the sidewalk. Inside, the church was not quite full of family and friends, but the volume was probably higher than the 7 a.m. Mass, where Sheppard served as lector for so many years. Fame — the bustle of the arena — fades quickly. Deeper things remain.

July 18, 2010 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Part II

Among the friends in the church was Jacqueline Twohie, an associate director for the YES Network’s Yankees telecasts. On Wednesday night she told the story of how she used to drop into the Mass in the auxiliary locker room at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees had a Sunday afternoon game.

One day, Sheppard asked her to be a lector, to read from the Scriptures, and she declined, saying she hated to speak in front of other people. He handed her what he called his 10 commandments of reading, tips on how to deliver a text. Twohie conquered her fears and began reading in front of others.

But he was not done. One day he said he noticed that she did not receive Holy Communion, and she replied something about not having been to confession in a long time. No problem, Sheppard said, referring her to the Rev. David Kearns, who officiated at the Mass.

Before she knew it, Twohie said, she was whisked into the men’s room of the auxiliary locker room, and Father David was hearing her confession — the first time she had ever been in a men’s room, the first time he had heard a confession in one. Father David died in 2005, and now Twohie is the lector at Sunday masses in the new Stadium. She said she considers herself a spiritual person, thanks to her two mentors.

She visited the Sheppard family in recent years, after Bob grew weak and stopped going to Yankee Stadium. The Sheppard women confided in her that Bob was very fond of her, and that he hoped her acknowledged spiritual growth might count in his favor when he was judged in the hereafter. She grew misty as she told the story.

Others seemed to have no problem placing Sheppard in the hereafter. Some have called him the Voice of God, but Sister Jean Amore, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, called him a Voice of God, a subtle difference.

Either way, the voice intimidated people. On Wednesday night, the Rev. Steven R. Camp said that Sheppard had told him recently that it was time to plan a funeral and then offered him the advice he had given to generations of speech students at John Adams High School in Queens: “Be clear, correct and concise.” And with that Father Camp ended his talk for the night. He was not about to ignore instructions from Robert L. Sheppard.

“There was a bit of a downside” to having him as a parishioner, Father Camp said Thursday. When Sheppard read from the Bible, it made his own priest daydream of seeing Mickey Mantle in 1964. Once, Father Camp became so lost in reverie that Sheppard had to get his attention, to get the Mass rolling again.

The downsides are not very down. Sheppard’s older son, Paul, said his father was the only person he met who did not curse. Once, while changing a tire, Sheppard had the jack snap loose and strike him on the wrist, drawing blood.

What did Sheppard say? “Darn.” The congregation smiled. Later, as the cortege took Robert L. Sheppard to the cemetery — with people applauding on the sidewalk — friends were still speculating what it must have sounded like when Bob said, “Darn.”

July 18, 2010 at 2:17 AM  

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