Following Up: Sheppard's Style; Old Timey Speech; Bumper Rules

Friday, July 16, 2010

Legendary announcer Bob Sheppard is being honored at Yankee Stadium today. We follow up on a particular quirk in his delivery. Ben Zimmer, writer of the "On Language" column in the NY Times Magazine, talks about Sheppard's voice and why people spoke so differently way back when. Plus, did Ronald Reagan really make your car's bumper less effective?


Ben Zimmer

Comments [16]

jrome from Northampton, MA

I think repeating the number came from need to counter the echoing inherent in the PA within the stadium. I've always felt the repetition helped make clear the player number the most important player feature in the eyes of the spectator in the stands.

You can actually hear how he waits for the echo to return before speaking the next word most clearly during the request for a moment of silence for Kennedy.

Great piece!

Jul. 16 2010 11:54 AM

I always thought the he repeated the number for those of us who were filling out our score cards. People were able to hear for a second time what number he said at the beginning.

Jul. 16 2010 11:21 AM

you're all missing the obvious...

repeat after me:

"under the O, 69.... O..... 69."


Jul. 16 2010 11:04 AM
Rich K from Union City

Those speech patterns came from making your voice carry before PA systems. It then became the expected way of public speaking. Old habits die hard, even when they're no longer needed.

Jul. 16 2010 11:00 AM
Robin from Merrick, NY

I grew up with the elocution standards of the BBC. When I listen to the World Service now, I am dismayed at the "dumbing down" of the speech of newsreaders and the presenters, to the extent that I find it a distraction from the content.

Jul. 16 2010 10:57 AM
Tigersfan from Brooklyn

As someone who loves to keep score at ball games the answer seems obvious to me. He repeats the number becuase it is easy to jot down the number as you go through the lineup and then look up the name off your roster than to write down each name as you go along.

Jul. 16 2010 10:56 AM
Eric from NJ

Good Point JT, GREAT story Jack!

Jul. 16 2010 10:56 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

"Him talk good, do."
This is era of Homer Simpson and of course, rap.
Sing-song tones - try to be 'hip' to please - not to educate, and, hey, you liberals, not to offend those who can't (or won't) learn to speak in proper ways.
OK, dude!

Good message: we don't spend time choosing our words. We have to be RAPPERS!

Jul. 16 2010 10:55 AM
Joe from Englewood, NJ

Is it the Mid Atlantic accent many actors adopted?

Jul. 16 2010 10:55 AM

I remember back in the late 1980s I use to listen to Spencer Ross's mid day show on WFAN. He had interviewed Bob Sheppard. Sheppard told a story about a time when he visited Fenway Park. Apparently he was friends with the Fenwey PA announcer. It was when Reggie Jackson was with the California Angels. So as a laugh, the Boston PA announcer allowed Bob Sheppard to announce Reggie's name. So you would hear "now batting No 44 Reggie Jackson, No 44." When Reggie heard that he dropped his bat and turned around apparently to double check to see if he was in the right ball park.

Jul. 16 2010 10:54 AM
JT from Long Island

On hearing the RFK piece it almost sounded like he was waiting for the echo of his voice to pass. Could it be that he didn't want the echo to obscure what he was saying?

Jul. 16 2010 10:53 AM

It might be so that fans could keep track of players. He did start announcing before large video screens were available.

Jul. 16 2010 10:52 AM
Eric from NJ

Maybe he repeated the number because the Yankees don't have names on their Jerseys?

Jul. 16 2010 10:51 AM
Tom from UWS

Repeating the player's number functioned as a period, before going on to the next player's information.

Jul. 16 2010 10:50 AM
JT from Long Island

I would assume he repeated the number for people that are filling out their score cards. He's probably remembers when that was important to fans at the game.

Jul. 16 2010 10:50 AM
Mark from Washington Heights

Baseball is a slow game, so Sheppard was trying to fill some time!

Jul. 16 2010 10:50 AM

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