ST. LOUIS — DID YOU KNOW THAT MIKE SHANNON IS THE LONGEST-TENURED BROADCASTER IN CARDINALS HISTORY?
“Swing, and get up, baby! Get up! Get up! Get up! Home run! He’s done it again!”
It took a while for Mike Shannon to get to that call of Mark McGwire’s 70th home run back in September of 1998.
Imagine grabbing someone out of the seats at Busch Stadium, walking them up to the broadcast booth, and them sitting them down and telling them to call the game for the team’s radio network.
To some degree, that’s what the Cardinals did when they paired the untested Shannon with Jack Buck in 1972.
“Well, he was very rough,” Jay Randolph described the novice’s early days in the booth.
Ron Jacober, Randolph’s longtime colleague in the (then) KSD-TV sports department put it more to the point. “They (the Cardinals) took a gamble when they put him on the air.”
Shannon had spent a year in the Cardinals’ front office after leaving the playing field due to a kidney illness. Mike said the Cardinals G.M. at the time tried to find a better fit for him.
“Bing Devine offered me the Triple-A job and a coaching job,” Shannon remembers. He declined those offers because of the time it would take away from his wife and young family so soon after his illness. “Then he came to me and said some people wanted him (Devine) to feel me out about the broadcasting. I said yeah, I could make my own scheduling about that. I went from there.”
Not to say that it was a smooth transition.
“It was one of Mike’s first games,” Cardinals broadcaster Mike Claiborne told Frank Cusumano. “And Jack wanted to get the names of the umpires, and he said, ‘Hey Mike, can you go get the umpires?’ And according to Jack, Mike brought two guys up in a headlock – brought two umpires up in a headlock and asked, ‘What do you want me to do with the other two?’”
Shannon said he learned the most from the Hall of Famer Buck by simply observing. And he stuck to one principle.
“I was just myself – never tried to be anything else,” Shannon told Cusumano. Mike’s friends and fellow broadcasters agree.
“It works because it’s Mike," Jacober said. "That’s the best way I can describe it."
“He never tried to be that polished, he tried to be himself," Shannon's current radio partner, John Rooney said. "And I think he’s polished that act very well.”
“It’s not always balls and strikes with him," Claiborne said. "He’ll look at (KMOX producer/engineer) Jim Jackson and realize (he) didn’t win the lottery, or he’ll talk about Fast Eddie or other people he knows that has nothing to do with the game but he’s got a story about them. He’s in a lot of different places but he’s holding a conversation. And by the way, there happens to be a baseball game going on.”
That is the essence of Mike Shannon, who has surpassed Buck for the most years broadcasting Cardinals games. Had team executives had a quicker trigger finger, he might not have lasted after the first couple of years. Now, he’s a certified legend, and by Claiborne’s estimation he’s the most recognizable person in St. Louis sports. Shannon had some network opportunities back in the 1980’s but he’s a fixture in the Gateway City.
Whitey Herzog, a Cardinals legend in his own right, calls Shannon “an icon,” and adds, “I don’t think Mike could go to New York and broadcast – I don’t think he could go to a lot of places and broadcast, but I think he’s a perfect guy for St. Louis.”
So why is Mike Shannon so popular with fans here?
Let’s let his longtime friend and boothmate Randolph have the final word.
“He’s one in a million," Randolph said. "You can’t compare him to anybody. Think about that. Who would you compare him to? He does it his way, and over the years thousands and thousands of people have gotten to enjoy the way he does it.”
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