Anyone who hangs around Yankees Stadium or watches the Yankees over the past 50 years (he started in 1951) will know the voice of Bob Sheppard who recently died at the age of 99. Sheppard was the announcer who would introduce the players as tey came up to bat. His voice was so distinctive that it became a New York fixture .Even after he was unable to come to the ballpark, Derek Jeter insisted that he be introduced with a tape of his voice. When he spoke you always knew it was him and the voice made you settle in feeling right at home in Yankee Stadium.
Voices are interesting. The voice of God in the Bible is always a way in which God communicates to us. It could be a voice coming out of a burning bush as with Moses (Exodus 3). There are also the words of the priest Eli to Samuel telling Samuel when he hears the voice, he should say “speak Lord for thy servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3: 10). And yet another instance in which we are told that God is known in the “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19: 11 – 12). In all these ways something is being communicated to us.
William Sloane Coffin was once asked in an interview “if God is saying anything to us today, what is he saying?” Coffin replied “God is not just speaking to us, he is screaming to us through the voices of the poor and sick and helpless.”
As I think about the famous voice of Bob Sheppard, who incidentally was a speech teacher by profession and loved to be a lector in his own church also see a person who loved to use his talent in a unassuming way.. As a devout Catholic he was really disappointed when he couldn’t be a lector on Sunday morning. Too often I see people read the lessons without energy, enthusiasm or panache. Lifeless words said by tired people makes you wonder.
Bob Sheppard took speaking seriously. Pronunciation, annunciation, and just plain conversation are things we take for granted today. In fact, many are just plain sloppy about communicating thoughts, ideas or feelings. Maybe we need to take a second a look at ourselves and the ways we speak. Our voices were not made for profanity or for the brutalization of the English language. Have you ever thought of the fact that God may be speaking through you, and that we are the mouthpieces of God that comes often times as a “still small voice.,” heard just the same.
In the end, announcing peoples names who come up to bat in a baseball game seems trivial and unimportant, but Bob Sheppard made something that is ordinary special. Perhaps on a Sunday morning when one is reading the lessons, on most days a rather simple task, we have the opportunity to do something extraordinary. Bob Sheppard made little things matter. Maybe there’s a lesson there for us as well.