Like A Good Piece Of Art

This is not intended as an insurance advertisement, just a freeze from ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby that struck me as bordering on art: the shadowed silhouettes of fans in the right field bleachers at Angel Stadium during David Ortiz’s ups.


Nice, huh?
A commenter on the last post quotes a second version of the only major gaffe committed in the 57 seasons the late Mr. Sheppard announced Yankee games at Yankee and Shea Stadiums. In the version I recounted, a faulty microphone caused his editorial comments about starter Shane Rawley (“if you call that a pitcher”) to echo around the ballpark. In the version the commenter cut-and-pasted, Bob recalled it as Rawley entering a 1982 game in relief and his first pitch getting whacked for an extra base hit, leading to a different comment (“some relief pitching”) going out over an open mic. 
In point of fact, I heard both versions, from Bob. Since Rawley, otherwise effective with the Mariners and particularly the 1987 Phillies, spent his entire two-and-a-half years in the Bronx pitching like the Human Torch, either version could be correct (maybe even both). My point in telling the story was that after initially being terribly embarrassed by the gaffe, Bob came to embrace it and enjoy it as much as the rest of us cherish some of our on-air bloopers (my favorite of my own can’t be repeated or reprinted – I’ll spare you).
This reminds me that one of the first clues as to the identity of Bob’s forgotten predecessor was a open-mic blooper so hilarious that it was recorded by all of New York’s many newspapers in the ’40s, and has since passed into baseball lore – but attributed almost exclusively to another PA man. A few fans sitting front-row in fair territory had draped their overcoats over the then low fence in the outfield. The next day, the papers all reported that the Yankee Stadium announcer had inspired a roar of laughter from the crowd by intoning “Would the fans sitting in right field please remove their clothes…” 
Remarkably, not one of the eight or nine beat reporters – who used to fight each other for details in a way we can’t comprehend today – said who the PA announcer was! This was the first hint that his anonymity was being protected for some reason. Later evidence proved the reason was obvious: it was Yankees’ Public Relations man Arthur “Red” Patterson, and the writers certainly weren’t going to tick off their official conduit to the club by publicly humiliating him by name.
A year or two later, Tex Rickards, the Dodger PA announcer whose style would be the exact opposite of Sheppard’s (earthy, gravelly, sitting not in the press box but next to the Dodger dugout, often wearing a team jacket reading “Dodger Announcer”), made the exact same mistake. Rickards’ version of “will the fans sittin’ in the outfield please remove dere clothes” has gone into history. Patterson’s is an almost forgotten footnote – except he did it first.
Incidentally, the doubling of duties was not unique to New York. A remarkable recording of a Yankees-Tigers game in Detroit from 1934 has Tigers’ radio play-by-play man Ty Tyson telling his listeners that Luke Hamlin was coming into pitching, then, with an audible click, he turns on the PA microphone and makes the same announcement to the crowd.

Imagine Vin Scully doubling as the Dodgers’ voice, on air, and in Dodger Stadium!
One last note about Mr. Sheppard. Visiting with my friend Gary Cohen after the Mets’ game yesterday (and congratulations to Gary, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez for placing second to Vin in GQ Magazine’s ranking of the best TV booths in the game), he told me that Ralph Kiner had mentioned during the broadcast that when Ralph joined the Mets’ crew in 1962 he sought Sheppard’s advice on enunciation and clarity – which gives you a sense of the esteem with which he was held, relatively early in his remarkable career.


  1. exilerugby

    I grew up with Sherm Feller in Fenway Park and “Rocketman” playing over the P.A. as a young Roger Clemens warmed up to start the game. Later, I got to know Kenny Coleman and I would never tell him this but it was so cool to hear that voice calling my name, even if it was just to go to dinner.


    Hi Keith! Love the stories. The “take off your clothes” blooper had me laughing out loud. That reminds me – I was talking to a friend today, while working on his new computer. He told me about his uncle, Les Carmichael, who used to do baseball announcing quite a few years ago. (He might have gone by Robert – I think Les was his middle name.) In any case, my friend told me that his uncle would sometimes be announcing the game in a room far away from the actual field – but that information would be coming over the wire, and he would report on that. Unfortunately, one day the information stopped coming in, and he had to make up stuff. “Uhh… it looks as if they’re taking a time out. The catcher has gone out on the field to talk to the pitcher…” (That is, of course, a loose transcription of what he told me he thought his uncle might have said.) It was a far different job on those days, I guess. By the way, I would love to hear the story on YOUR worst blooper – can you put it on Twitter, or is it even too bad to post there? Oh, and by the way…. “Bulging…. DISCS!” 🙂 Great blog post! Have a great night, and thanks for the laughs!

  3. jwin214

    Great story either way. I once ordered a Subway sandwich with “lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and banana peckers.” I now stop at pickles; I just can’t risk doing that again!
    Somewhat of a less interesting relation – The State Farm ad at the Oakland Coliseum is in left field. Symmetry, anyone?

  4. jwin214

    BTW, I do like the picture! You are getting too good with that 4G. Reminds me…next time I’m in West Texas I’m going to take a picture of those wickedly large ants that have their own shadows.


    Found it! Les Carmichael – sports anchor (1958-1973), KMOV radio. Also, WEW/KWK (Bill Snyder, Les Carmichael). Not that you should care about this, but I like doing research, and after hearing my friend’s stories, I was curious to see if I could find anything about him.

  6. mrlyngreen

    BoSox fans–What is the origin of the nickname “Big Papi”

    I firmly believe that many of the Twitter trolls also post comments on MLB websites. The thread about the HR Derby is particularly enthralling. The Yankee fans and the Red Sox fans are really going at each other. I thought the Cardinals/Cubs rivalry was bad, but we ain’t got nothin on these AL fans. I thought the Twitter hashtag #cubssuck was pretty provocative until I read some of the comments on that HR Derby thread. Whoa.

  7. historymike

    When Red Barber started in Cincinnati, he replaced a local announcer named Harry Hartmann, who also had been and remained PA announcer. So, when he did the broadcasts, Harry would shut off the PA mike when he was going to call the plays. I don’t know of other examples at the time. But it is interesting to note that for a quarter of a century, we Dodger fans were treated to the basso of John Ramsey, who was a wonderful PA man in his own right and, like Bob Sheppard, respected the crowd enough not to sound like a raving moron, as so many of them do today–even at Dodger Stadium, the PA man tries to build up the excitement. I did PA at my high school’s basketball games, and someone even told me I didn’t get excited enough. I said, well, that’s not my job–that’s for the fans to do.


    Errr. . .like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder. Or so they say. I’m an artiste and I see contrast in this photo, but my eye is nevertheless drawn to the glowing Gatorade and State Farm logos. As much as it pains me to say, the boys on Madison Avenue would be proud.
    And I’m tellin’ ya . . . I have one of those names that defies correct pronunciation. A boss mispronounced my name for many years, despite repeated corrections, objections, and ignoring-him-till-he-flippin’-said-it-right, on my part. What is it with some people and names?
    So, again, Mr. Sheppard going the extra mile in order to pronounce the ballplayers’ names correctly when introducing them honestly brings a lump to my throat. That gracious extension of himself is the sort of thing I would never forget, and would go out of my way somehow to repay.
    All of this talk about PA gaffes puts me in mind of that episode of ?Seinfeld,? where Jerry is dating a woman whose name for the life of him he can’t remember. Being Jerry, of course he can’t just ask her. Finally, she enticingly proffers that her name rhymes with certain embarrassing body parts. And then he and George wrack their brains trying to figure out what the hell it could be . . .

  9. jwin214

    Keith – My condolences to the Yankees organization and fans such as yourself, following the death of George Steinbrenner, the team’s second great loss in as many days.

  10. jeterandiborn62674

    I don’t know if this qualifies as a gaffe but I thought Keith might appreciate it. I was watching a game on YES and the announcer Michael Kay saw a fan in the stands who was on camera and said “That fan looks just like Courteney Cox of ‘Friends’! They could be twins!” The problem is– she was actually Contessa Brewer of MSNBC. Vin is definitely the #1 announcer (even when Curtis Granderson briefly became “Curtis Gunderson” a couple weeks ago in L.A.) and Gary, Keith and Ron are the next best booth (even when Keith H. doses off in the booth or asks Gary if he just went to church on Sunday).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s