DOMINIC DIMAGGIO'S WAS THE FIRST NAME I EVER ANNOUNCED. It was Opening Day, April 17, 1951, the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox. I was nervous, but I was a professional speechmaker. A microphone did not faze me. As a young teacher in New York City public schools at the time, I taught speech every day and had worked as the public address announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees football teams. The Yankees football team played at the same stadium as the Yankees baseball team. When the baseball people heard me doing football, they asked me if I would like to do baseball, too.
They paid me $15 per game, $17 for a doubleheader and nothing if it rained. I remember that first day clearly, and it stayed with me because it was a great day, a great game and a great team. Leftfield, Jackie Jensen; shortstop, Phil Rizzuto; rightfield, Mickey Mantle; centerfield, the "other" DiMaggio, Joe; catcher, Yogi Berra; first base, Johnny Mize; third base, Billy Johnson; second base, Jerry Coleman; and the pitcher was Vic Raschi. The score was 5-0 in favor of the Yankees, and I managed to get through the game without any mistakes.
However, in 57 years as the public address announcer for the Yankees, I certainly made my goofs. Once I was doing an afternoon baseball game at Yankee Stadium and, later that evening, a football game in the new Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. When the baseball game ended I jumped in my car, drove over to Jersey, got into my booth and at the right time said, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium." I was so embarrassed, I didn't listen to the crowd laugh or jeer or say, "Bob, this is football, not baseball."
In all the years I've announced, the most memorable moment would be Don Larsen's perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. With two outs and Larsen one batter away from making history, I had to introduce a pinch hitter named Dale Mitchell. I thought, Oh, no. I remembered when he was a .300-hitting outfielder with Cleveland. I said a prayer that he would make an out. Lo and behold, he had two strikes, and the next pitch was called a strike by umpire Babe Pinelli. End of game, end of tension; more than 60,000 people exhaled.
Even though I've been separated from the Yankees since a 2007 illness reduced my stamina and made me unable to do my job, I still have strong connections to the team. I'm very proud to have been asked by Derek Jeter to let them use a recording of my voice introducing him every time he comes to bat. I think that might be one of the nicest gestures that I have received from the Yankees.
I still watch some games on TV and listen to parts of others on the radio, depending upon how long they go. If I'm going to bed early, I'll watch the first few innings, go upstairs, put a radio next to me, get into bed and listen to it. If I fall asleep, Mrs. Sheppard, who is a Yankees fan, will come up and say, "You want to know the score?" I'll say, "Yes." If it's the seventh or eighth inning, I turn on the radio and listen until Yankees radio announcer John Sterling says, "Thuhhhhh Yankees win!" My head is a little dizzy because of another Yankees victory. It means nothing in my pocket, but in my heart there is pleasure.