Tag Archives: Sports announcers

R.I.P. Bob Sheppard

I was born in New York City and spent my wonder years there, and if you were a boy in New York at that time, you were a Yankee fan by birthright. I have many fond memories of my Dad taking me to games. After walking through the gray and grimy Bronx, going through the tunnel into the stands and seeing all that green grass was like the door opening after Dorothy’s house landed in The Wizard of Oz.

I’m no longer a Yankee fan – haven’t been for a long time – but the passing of Bob Sheppard deserves mention. Like the classic announcers that are slowly dwindling away, Sheppard’s introductions were memorable and classy and timeless. He started announcing Yankee games in 1951 and continued until late in 2007, and his reverential tone was used to introduce every Yankee great from Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to the present day. Reggie Jackson referred to him as “the voice of God“; more than one superstar player admitted that his introduction gave them goosebumps.

One of the many reasons that Derek Jeter will go down as one of the greatest Yankees ever is his respect for the game and tradition. After Sheppard retired, Jeter asked that Bob’s taped introduction continue to be used every time he came up to the plate.

Ninety-nine years is a long life, and Sheppard’s loss will undoubtedly be felt by many, many friends and associates. But you can smile knowing that when you die and move on to whatever state of consciousness you believe in, Bob Sheppard will be there to announce your entrance in that rich, deep voice.

Bob Sheppard wiki page.


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R.I.P. Bill Gleason

One more cigar - for the wordsmith

I don’t talk sports on this blog, by design. It’s not that I try to avoid an unpleasant topic (like politics and religion) but more that I try to focus upon music, comedy, television, books and film – pop culture and the arts. (I post about sports here.) 

But I guess I can qualify this RIP today since when I first got basic cable back in the day, I stumbled across four cantankerous cigar-smoking guys sitting around the table talking sports –  Sportswriters on TV

An extension of a popular Chicago radio show, the TV version was the same show with a couple of cameras filming the action. Important topics of the day would be topic fodder, but these guys could run off on an entertaining tangent in a heartbeat, and that’s when the show got really interesting. One of them, Bill Gleason, passed away today after a full 87 years on this mortal coil. 

(Ironically, it was another Chicago show featuring two film critics named Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that inspired me to look outside my own peer group for film discussion. And like with any great critic, I didn’t always agree with them but I understood them enough to know when to take their opinion seriously or take it with a grain of salt. But I digress…

So I would catch this sports show at the oddest of hours, but watch fascinated on that tiny living-on-a-prayer sized television and mesmerized that I was a fly on the wall with these old salts. In fact, I seem to remember how Rick Telander (now 60-ish) was like a young pup when he joined Gleason, Bill Jauss and Ben Bentley, all twenty years or so older. For Telander, it must have been like moving from the kid’s table to the adult table at Thanksgiving. And initially he did defer, although he had the credentials to be there. 

I grew up in New York City. We didn’t get the New York Times in my house, we got The Daily News and later Newsday, so I didn’t realize what a non-tabloid newspaper was until I was in High School. Watching this show proved to me that Chicago was filled with the same intensity and mania for sports that we had, and in fact, so many other cities have. Boston. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Blue collar hearts.

Gleason was – as one commenter put it –  “a shot and beer guy in a shot and beer town”. He was like you, except he had your dream job. But he invited you along for the ride. In the early days of cable wasteland, you have to understand what a find this was.

Sportswriters was the forerunner for every sports talk show since. Unfortunately, sports is now a business, and sports coverage is a predominantly a myopic cesspool. Most of the pinheads getting air time think it’s all about them, not the topics. Fools. These old veterans had fame, they were all accredited writers, but they understood that they were not the important part of the show. You were the fifth barstool

But all things must pass. Gleason, as Telander says in his tribute, “has gone to the great typewriter in the sky”. I’m a lot younger but appreciate an old-school sportswriter like him and a classic voice like Jack Buck or Vin Scully. Soon they will all be gone, and frankly, sports will never be the same. 

I feel sorry for a generation growing up on this and this.

But if you settle for it, maybe I don’t

I’m going to figuratively don a Panama hat or a cabbie cap and light up a stogie. Thanks, Bill. 

Chicago Tribune obituary 

Rick Telander remembers Bill Gleason 

a 1990 Telander piece for Sports Illustrated about the show 

2009's NFL MVP. No contest.

(And if I was going to post about sports I’d post about this force of nature – Chris Johnson, the Manimal. But I’ll save my Titan love for another place and time.)

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Filed under Editorials, Features and Interviews, Film/TV