Physically and mentally challenging week at camp? Check. Work every day the last 2 weeks (that is since I got back from camp)? Check. Two jobs? Check. Bob Sheppard’s funeral. Check. Stress induced nervous breakdown starting with a tuna sandwich. Check.
The past 2 weeks of insanity finally caught up with me yesterday. I was incredibly excited to be covering Bob Sheppard’s funeral. As a lifetime Yankee fan and aspiring journalist, the event was two-fold for me. I got to experience a Yankee legend’s funeral and I got to experience the media frenzy surrounding news so big.
Despite being incredibly tired, I dragged myself out of bed around 8 a.m. and met Mary so we could drive over to the funeral together. The entire street was blocked off in front of St. Christopher’s Church on Merrick Road in Baldwin. There were Nassau County police everywhere (which made me wish I’d asked good old dad if he had any ins!). There were media everywhere. Well, devoting most of my high school career to concert going paid off. Attending standing room only concerts in tiny venues where all anyone wanted was to get close to the front (where I usually made my way) taught me two things: 1) worm your way to the front at all costs, and 2) don’t mess with me—no, I won’t be moving, no, you cannot just sneak by me, and no, pushing me is not okay.
I will admit that after the initial moments of my being there, most of the photographers were relatively nice to me—I was fearful considering I look about 12 years old, that most people would look at me and laugh. At one point I was actually crouched down on the ground trying to get photos of Brian Cashman. (Mary says she has great photos of me actually, so I’ll post those when I see them).
The elusive bus that arrived before the funeral. Just who is that man directing the driver to turn?
The million-dollar question though—where were the Yankees?
It was believed by anyone and everyone that considering they had the day off, and were still in All-Star break, most of the players would make their way to Long Island to pay respects to Sheppard—Derek Jeter especially. We were told that they players were being transported by bus to the funeral home. Now, a bus did show up, and I do have photos and I’m still trying to figure out why a giant bus such as this one was in Baldwin, conveniently turning down the street the funeral was on, and conveniently a large group made their way into the side door of the church shortly after. I’m not saying the Yankees were on the bus, however, considering they never showed up, I’m awfully curious as to just who was on that bus.
General Manager Brian Cashman actually made his way into the front of the church and an onlooker seemed to think she had spotted Nick Swisher and Joe Girardi walking in the back door with that crowd. I saw Brian Cashman, he was definitely there. As for the Yankees, it remains unknown.
The services were broadcast outside the church via large speakers—which was a nice touch for the media’s purposes. General Manager Brian Cashman, NY Giants President John Mara, and Sheppard’s oldest son Paul eulogized Sheppard.
Both Cashman and Mara made comments about how nervous they each were to be responsible for such a task—eulogizing the “voice of God.” Although Sheppard never stepped up to bat or caught a pop-up, he is a Yankee legend. “Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Yankee stadium,” his voice is recognized by any baseball fan—especially a Yankee fan. For 56 years Sheppard was the public announcer of Yankee stadium, announcing greats such as DiMaggio, Mantle and Jeter. Although his career ended in 2007, his voice lives on. Despite never announcing a lineup at the new Yankee stadium, Yankee captain Derek Jeter insists that only Sheppard introduces him to the plate. As a result, a recording of Sheppard plays each and every time. For this reason, among many others, Sheppard will live on in the hearts of fans forever.
However, considering Jeter’s deep love for Sheppard, it is questionable as to why he did not attend the services. Now, Derek Jeter is my favorite ball player. I hate to think that he would do anything uncharacteristic of great. In the defense of the Yanks, the news of Sheppard and Steinbrenner is enough to shake anyone—especially the players. But just where was this supposed bus? As we stood around waiting we were told that no, they weren’t coming by bus but instead via their own cars. They were stuck in traffic we said. Traffic was keeping the Yankees from the funeral.
Okay, I live on Long Island; I can understand that… each morning driving to work is a new test of my patience. However, why then, could they not get a police escort? We were told that we were still in a good spot—the players would walk right past us… or were we? I’m skeptical to think that anyone knew anything. There was in fact a horrific and fatal car accident on the Meadowbrook parkway which could have certainly held the players up—had they truly been on their way.
About 45 minutes into the services, we overheard from another reporter that the players had been diverted straight to Pinelawn—the sight of Sheppard’s grave. I honestly thought nothing of it but I will admit I was certainly bummed.
The services were beautiful. Baldwin and South Hempstead Fire Departments created an arch and draped a huge American flag outside the church, as well as a Yankee flag. The street was filled with mourners—many of whom were devote Yankee fans. I got to speak to several residents, and Mary and I put together a great story and column.
One Baldwin resident told me a story about trick-or-treating at Sheppard’s home one Halloween. She said that her and her friends were dressed as Yankee players when they showed up at his home and that he came outside and took photos and even talked with them for a bit. This sums up Sheppard, he was more than an announcer for the Yankees—he was a legend with a huge heart.
As for why the Yankees weren’t there… we called the stadium today and spoke with a PR representative, Jason, who told us he knew nothing of a “bus” and was offended by our accusations about the players not being there. “They were represented—Cashman was there,” he told us. Well, considering every paper in Boston is ripping the Yankees apart for not attending, and considering people want to know “just where were the Yankees?” I’d argue the offense is unnecessary.
It is unquestionable that Sheppard should be entered into the Yankee Hall of Fame, and also that the players, at least the ones who knew him best, should make a statement explaining what happened. Tonight’s game promises a tribute to both Sheppard and Steinbrenner… I’ll be watching.
Overall though, the experience was one I’d never take back—talk about baptism under fire. I just wish it didn’t lead to that nervous breakdown I had last night. At the risk of sounding like my mother, I think the stress of the past two weeks nearly killed me. I was so whipped out after working two jobs yesterday and shopping with my mom, all I wanted was a sandwich. And let me tell you, when I finally got around to going to grab a bagel at 930 p.m. and it wasn’t toasted like I asked—I was polite said it wasn’t a big deal, but then I had a meltdown. That was the beginning of a very upsetting night that only ended when I finally fell asleep. I am very thankful to be off tomorrow.