I have never been a fan of the New York Yankees, but I’ve never been a Yankee hater, either. After all, both sides of my family lived in the Bronx, just a few stops up the Jerome Avenue el from Yankee Stadium. Although my family lived there until I reached in kindergarten, my first team was the Giants, probably because the first player I idolized was Giants Hall of Fame centerfielder Willie Mays. But my beloved Giants and the despised Dodgers deserted New York for the West Coast after the 1956 season, and the Yankees were the only team in town until the Mets arrived in 1962. The Mets became my favorite team, but since I grew up in one of the Yankees’ golden eras (unfortunately, there have been too many), I had to admire the Yankees, their lore and their continued excellence.
Their tradition extended off the field. One of my earliest and most vivid memories of the first Yankee Stadium is what it sounded like. Not just the roar of the crowd after a homer from Moose Skowron, Yogi or the Mick, but the sonorous elocution of public address announcer Bob Sheppard as he welcomed them to Yankee Stadium, read the starting lineups and introduced each player as he came to bat. Each position, name and number, each and every syllable, perfectly pronounced, echoed around the park.
“Now batting for the Yankees, playing center field, No. 7, Mickey Mantle. No. 7.”
In the news coverage and many tributes following his July 11 death, the 99-year-old St. John’s University linguistics professor Sheppard was remembered as “the voice of God” (attributed to Reggie Jackson) for his work with the Yankees, the New York Giants NFL team and St. John’s. Shepperd himself, in an interview rebroadcast on ESPN, called attention not to his voice, but to the words he spoke. In contrast to the bombastic home-team enthusiasts who rule the P.A. system at most U.S. stadia and arenas today (“EEE-CHEE-RO SOO-ZOO-KEY!!!”), Shepperd said he wanted all his announcements to include three key elements: Be clear, concise and correct. He consistently delivered the same information, always impeccably, from his first Yankee game in 1951 to his last in 2007. (He also read the starting lineups for the last game played in the old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008.)
“Now batting for the Yankees, the shortstop, No. 2, Derek Jeter. No. 2.”
Clear, concise, correct. Not only are those three words a well chosen standard for player introductions at Yankee Stadium, but it’s also a grand trio to govern all written and verbal communication. Whether you deliver your message in a press release, an e-mail alert, an ad, a personal letter or all of them and more, making your copy clear, concise and correct is always the right place to start. If your words need some fine-tuning for discriminating audiences, a professional editor can help.