Sheppard's voice absent at Stadium

Sheppard's voice absent at Stadium

NEW YORK -- There was only one thing missing from the stirring ceremonies leading into Tuesday's 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game -- the clear, correct and concise Voice of Yankee Stadium.

Bob Sheppard was honored with a warm round of applause in his absence during the historic proceedings on the field, which featured 49 Hall of Famers in the largest assemblage of living legends in the game's history.

Poor health has prohibited Sheppard, 97, from making it back to the press level during the 2008 campaign.

"After 57 years of doing every game at Yankee Stadium, it is deeply disappointing," Sheppard told the Newark Star-Ledger last week. "But I have no control over my well-being. I have faith that God will get me back to the ballpark whenever he's ready for me to get back."

Sheppard has suffered from a series of illnesses, including a bronchial infection and pneumonia, which impacted both his voice and his strength. Sheppard's longtime backup, Jim Hall, has served as the Yankees' public address announcer through the club's home schedule this season, as well as during last year's American League Division Series.

The lone exception has been when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter bats -- Jeter had Sheppard record him announcing his name in his distinct style, "Now batting for the Yankees, No. 2, Derek Jeter" -- and has insisted that he will always come to home plate with Sheppard's voice.

As synonymous with Yankee Stadium as Monument Park or its distinctive frieze, the 2008 campaign marks Sheppard's 58th anniversary as the Yankees' public address announcer. He began his tenure with the club on April 17, 1951, the only instance in which Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle shared an Opening Day outfield.

Sheppard has worked approximately 4,500 baseball games during his career, including 121 consecutive postseason contests (1951 through 2006) and 62 games in 22 World Series. Sheppard was also the voice of football's New York Giants for 50 seasons until his retirement after the 2005 season.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.