The New York Yankees honored late owner George Steinbrenner and former public-address announcer Bob Sheppard with a come-from-behind victory yesterday following a pre-game ceremony in which they were remembered as “shining stars of the Yankee universe.”
The Yankees showed a video tribute to Steinbrenner and had a moment of silence for both prior to the team’s first game since Major League Baseball’s All-Star break, a home contest against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Nick Swisher’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees a 5-4 win. Swisher also hit a solo home run off Joaquin Benoit to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning.
“On a day like this when we celebrate his life, got to take him out on a W,” Swisher told reporters after the game. “Today was Mr. Steinbrenner’s day. Regardless of the situation, regardless of anything, we went out there and we played that game as best we could for him.”
Sheppard’s voice opened the 15-minute pre-game ceremony: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium.”
That was followed by a 4-minute video tribute to Steinbrenner and an almost 90-second standing ovation by the fans, players, coaches and executives in attendance.
“We gather here tonight to honor two men who were both shining stars of the Yankee universe,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said in a speech given after relief pitcher Mariano Rivera placed two roses at home plate. “They’ll forever be remembered in baseball history and in our hearts. Simply put, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard both left this organization in a much better place then when they first arrived. They’ve set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow.”
After a moment of silence, U.S. armed forces played “Taps” and the national anthem.
After the final out, Sheppard’s voice was heard again over the stadium’s speakers. “Thank you for coming to the game,” he said in a recording.
Another ceremony will be held today during the team’s Old- Timers’ Day. A video tribute to Sheppard will precede the introduction of more than 64 former Yankee players and coaches. There will also be a performance to recognize Sheppard during the seventh-inning stretch.
A patch commemorating Steinbrenner was placed on the front left of the Yankees’ uniforms -- over the heart --and another patch honoring Sheppard adorns the left sleeve of the team’s jerseys. The patches will be worn for the rest of the season.
Following Sheppard’s July 11 death, Steinbrenner said in a statement that his departure left a “lasting silence.” The Yankees owner himself passed away two days later in Tampa, Florida. He was 80.
Steinbrenner, known as “The Boss,” led an investment group that spent $8.6 million to buy the club from CBS Corp. in 1973. The team is now worth $1.5 billion, the most in baseball, according to Forbes magazine.
The Yankees won seven of their record 27 World Series titles during Steinbrenner’s 37-year tenure as owner. Last year, they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to win the championship in the inaugural season at the new Yankee Stadium. New York is 56-32 this season, the best record in baseball.
Following Steinbrenner’s death, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said that the former owner will always be as much a New York Yankee as Hall-of-Famers Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and DiMaggio.
Flags at New York’s City Hall were lowered on July 13 in Steinbrenner’s honor, while Yankees players and coaches wore black armbands in his memory that night at baseball’s All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.
“It’s huge, a huge a loss,” Rivera said in an interview with the YES Network before the ceremony. “Irreplaceable. There will never be another boss.”
Sheppard died at the age of 99. He stepped away from the Yankees’ public-address booth in 2007, ending a 57-season career with the American League franchise.
Known for his perfect diction and dignified delivery, Sheppard began working for the Yankees in 1951 and introduced players from Joe DiMaggio to Derek Jeter before a bronchial infection during the 2007 season forced a long hospital stay and his eventual retirement.
Jeter continues to use a recording of Sheppard’s introduction: “Now batting for the Yankees, the shortstop, No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2.” The introduction was also used prior to Jeter’s speech.
Sheppard’s funeral was July 15, while Steinbrenner’s will be held privately. A public memorial for the Yankees’ former owner is being planned, according to his family.