Some incredibly sad news has hit the baseball city of St. Louis this week, as one of the Cardinals’ most beloved figures, Mike Shannon, passed away this weekend. The MLB Hall of Famer was 83 at the time of his passing.
Born and raised in STL, Shannon embodied the team and the city in a number of ways. A multi-star athlete at CBC High School, he was named the Missouri High School Player of the Year in both football and basketball his senior year. He would attend the University of Missouri before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1958.
He was called up in 1962 and played nine years with the team. Although injuries and illness shortened his time in uniform, he would go on to a 50-year career in the Cardinal broadcast booth. Sitting alongside friend and mentor Jack Buck, he became known as one of the sport’s most affable announcers.
Mike Shannon was elected to Cooperstown in 2014, honoring his captivating career as a Cardinal. During his time under the shadows of The Arch, he certainly provided their faithful fanbase with some magical memories.
Here are three fantastic facts about Cardinals’ legend Mike Shannon:
#1 – He was a versatile, clutch player for multiple championship teams
For generations of fans who weren’t around when he was an active player, it’s probably hard to imagine the longtime broadcaster excelling on the field.
Shannon spent his first few seasons in right field, which is where the young star was positioned when he was part of manager Johnny Keane’s 1964 World Series Championship team. In 1967, the talented Shannon moved to third base to make room for former Yankee and two-time AL MVP Roger Maris. He handled the tradition smoothly, and eventually, he would even excel at the hot corner.
Shannon played in three World Series for the Cardinals, defeating the Yankees (1964) and the Red Sox (1967), before losing to Detroit in 1968. It was in October that the hometown hero always seemed to come through. He hit a home run off Whitey Ford in Game 1 of the 1964 World Series and another one in Game 3 of the ’67 Series, served up by Gary Bell. Then in Game 7 of the 1968 Fall Classic against the Tigers, he hit a solo home run off Mickey Lolich.
Shannon also hit the last home run in Sportsman’s Park in 1966 and the first one for the Cardinals in the new Busch Stadium (colloquially known as ‘Busch II’).
#2 – It’s believed that he could have won The Heisman Trophy if he played college football
Stories of his athletic prowess during his youth are plentiful around St. Louis. For those who saw him, he was one of the city’s favorite sports sons. And it wasn’t just in baseball. As mentioned, he was recruited by major universities in more than one sport.
Former Mizzou coach Frank Broyles said that had he stayed in school, Shannon might have won the Heisman Trophy on the gridiron for the Tigers. As a senior, he was the starting quarterback for an undefeated team and was voted a high-school All-American.
6’3″ and powerfully built, Shannon could use his size to shed tacklers. However, he also possessed a cannon arm. It was the same gun he would later display as a right fielder and third baseman. Several legendary area coaches fondly remembered that ‘Big Irish’ often looked like a man among boys – even against older competition.
With that resume and those references, it’s easy to see a standout star of Shannon’s era being able to dominate in different sporting worlds. Had he held off his career on the diamond, the legend may have had the most famous action figure in football sitting on his shelf.
#3 – He’s woven into the history & culture of St. Louis, right down to speaking in ‘Shannonisms’
Shannon spent 64 years with the Cardinals’ organization in some capacity. Most of that was in the booth where he provided St. Louis fans with entertaining commentary. His signature home run call punctuated his love for the team, as he implored every deep Redbird flyball near the wall to “Get up, baby! Get up!
He was a local boy, so he was well-versed in the pork steak and toasted ravioli traditions of his town. In an area that’s known for barroom banter and backyard bull sessions, he was a perfect fit to explain the on-field action.
As a man of the people, Shannon would frequently fumble his words and sometimes misspeak. But the outcome just seemed to somehow add to his charm.
– “He’s madder than a pig caught under a barnyard gate.”
– “It’s Mother’s Day today, so to all the mothers out there, happy birthday.”
– “The wind switched 360 degrees.”
– “Folks, we’re in Cincinapolis, Ohio, tomorrow night…”
– “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”
But those weren’t bloopers; they were just Shannonisms.
And the misspeaks – along with his homespun humor – were what made him so endearing to the fans. They loved him because quite frankly, he was one of them. Perfectly imperfect, in a Midwest kind of way.
Mike Shannon may be gone, but he will live forever in Cardinal Nation. A place that is often billed as ‘Baseball Heaven’ lost one of its diamond denizens, and he will be sorely missed. Something about seeing those Birds on the Bat won’t be the same.
But somewhere? Off in the distance on a July night. You might be able to hear the faint sounds of Mike Shannon describing the action over the crackling sounds of an AM radio. Just to let you know – he’s still watching the Redbirds… right along with you.
Main Image: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports