As I was listening to a recorded Bob Sheppard at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium yesterday, I wondered if the Yankees could have Bob Sheppard announcing the lineups forever.
Sheppard, 97, who had been announcing all the names and numbers for the New York Yankees since 1951, hasn’t made it to the stadium this year due to illness, but his voice has lived on due to the fact that he has recorded the Yankee lineup.
Given the ovation at the mention of Sheppard’s name last night, it’s clear that there would be no replacement for Sheppard if he sadly never makes it to the new stadium next year.
But due to the state of text-to-speech technology, Sheppard’s voice could be the voice of the starting lineups for the next 50 years, if the Yankees choose to go that route.
Patrick Dexter, director of business development forCepstral a leader in text-to-speech technology, told CNBC that it would be possible for the company to create a program that would enable the Yankees to have every player – the Yankees and their opponents – be announced by Sheppard’s voice forever.
“Doing names and numbers is easier than creating what they call a full domain voice, which is voicing full sentences,” Dexter said. “But if we had some time and money – and the Yankees certainly might have that bankroll -- we could do this.”
It would likely cost the Yankees in the six figures, Dexter said, and the company would need at least 10 hours of Sheppard’s time in order to recognize all his speech patterns.
If there’s a rookie who comes up for the Yankees in 2017 and the Sheppard program doesn’t immediately pronounce it right, Dexter said a technician could do a couple things to make sure the Sheppard voice program recognizes it correctly. One solution is to write everything phonetically. So if Jorge comes out George, it could be typed in as Horhay.
Dexter says that the text-to-speech technology is getting better because the company is getting more and more requests from ordinary people who want to preserve the voice of someone who is dying or who is losing their voice to cancer or some other disease.
The company has started to build a bank of voices, including a version of president George W. Bush, to respond vocally to text.
I can picture it right now. I’m sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium thirty years from now and I hear this. “Now Batting…Number 22…Derek Jeter Jr….Number 22.”
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