11.15.05

Voice Of The Football Giants Shall Intone No More

Posted in Gridiron at 1:18 am by

Not at Giants games, anyway. The New York Times’ George Vescey on the semi-retirement plans of the man whose imposing voice is as big a part of NY Giants history as Frank Gifford’s arm, Joe Pisarcik’s fumble or LT’s urine sample.

“Blame it on the New Jersey Turnpike.”

These words were enunciated in classic diction yesterday, as Robert Leo Sheppard explained why he was retiring as the public-address announcer for the Giants.

“When the game is over, you face all that traffic before you get home,” Sheppard (above) said, slowly and carefully and unemotionally, as he has done while announcing starting lineups in various stadiums in three states.

Fifty years have a nice round feel to them. Sheppard has been doing Yankees games for 55 years and will continue to do so.

“The Yankees just offered me a two-year contract, which I think was very nice of them,” Sheppard said.

He has been the dignified voice of the two most traditional sports teams in the New York area, becoming identified with the Yankees by the sheer volume of games, but he also became an integral part of Sunday afternoons wherever the Giants’ home stadium was at the moment.

Along with the Mara family, Sheppard was the enduring constant of the Giants as they schlepped from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium to temporary sites at the Yale Bowl and Shea Stadium before moving to New Jersey and Giants Stadium in October 1976.

That is a lot of turnpike miles, a lot of traffic jams, miles of backed-up red-brake lights, millions of honking horns. At least at Yankee Stadium, Sheppard and a friend who drives him can slip into a waiting elevator upon the last out, duck into the adjacent team parking lot and slip into the traffic in the first wave.

At Giants Stadium, there is no way to beat the traffic back to Baldwin, on Long Island. And even the trip to the game is an ordeal because Sheppard must first attend Mass, often reading the Scriptures to the congregation.

“If ever there was a voice of God to sports fans, it would be Bob Sheppard,” John Mara said yesterday.

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