Legendary Cardinal, St. Louis icon Mike Shannon dies at 83

For over 70 years, the city of St. Louis and Mike Shannon were joined at the hip. Whether on the field or in the booth, Shannon was one of the most famous names in town.

Just two years ago, Shannon set down his headset as one of only 14 announcers in baseball history known to have spent as long as 50 years in a broadcast booth, and one of just six to call all those games for only one team. Just three other active broadcasters — Jamie Jarrín of the Dodgers, Denny Matthews of the Royals and Bob Uecker of the Brewers — have been calling games for their respective teams longer than Shannon had up to that point.

What fans will always remember Shannon for in St. Louis is his intertwinement with the memories. His presence in Mark McGwire’s home run chase and the “Get up, baby! Get up!” calls that were heard aplenty. Bob Forsch throwing his second no-hitter in 1983. Albert Pujols’ home run off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NL Championship Series. The 2011 World Series. All making up his equal parts quirky, brutally honest and colorful calls, coined “Shannonisms.”

Shannon passed away on April 29, 2023 at 10:27 pm at the age of 83. He had been dealing with numerous health issues over the years, but his love for the Cardinals and the City of St. Louis never changed. And the city always paid it back double.

When Shannon revealed he had COVID-19 in October 2020, Cardinal Nation rallied behind him with millions of get well wishes.

He told the Post-Dispatch he was in the hospital for 15 days and thought he was going to die. But he persevered.

Shannon was born and raised in south St. Louis at 7045 Winona Avenue, the second-oldest of six children of Thomas A. Shannon and Elizabeth W. Richason Shannon.

He attended the University of Missouri before leaving in 1958 to begin his professional baseball career after signing with Bing Devine, general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Shannon, who believed himself to be a better football player, has said that if football players were paid better during his era, he probably would have stayed at Missouri and sought a professional football career. His former coach Frank Broyles famously said that had he stayed in school, Shannon might have won the Heisman Trophy.

Shannon began his big-league career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962. In 1964, he became the team’s regular right fielder, shifting to third base (in order to make room for the newly acquired Roger Maris) in 1967. Shannon played in three World Series for the Cardinals. He hit a game-tying two-run homer off Whitey Ford in the Game 1 of the 1964 World Series against the New York Yankees, which St. Louis won 9-5. In Game 3 of the 1967 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Shannon hit a key home run off Gary Bell.

In Game 7 of the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Shannon’s solo home run off Mickey Lolich was the Cardinals’ only run off Lolich as the Tigers clinched. Shannon also hit the last home run in the original Busch Stadium (Sportsman’s Park) in 1966 and the first one for the Cardinals in the second Busch Stadium (Busch Memorial Stadium). In 1970, he contracted nephritis, a kidney disease, which ended his playing career.

He became the color commentator on the Cardinals’ radio and TV broadcasts alongside announcer Jack Buck for the 1972 season. “It was an easy decision because I had six small children, and I had to educate them,” he recalled. “I thought the opportunity was better in broadcasting. So I worked as hard as I could to become the best broadcaster I could. It turned out to be the right decision.” Eventually he began sharing the play-by-play duties with Buck. There were times when the transition was not a smooth one as he learned the intricacies of calling a game, but Buck was a patient teacher and Shannon an eager student. “Good Lord of mercy, I don’t know what I would have done without him,” Shannon said. “That man helped me so much. I didn’t have to go to broadcasting school—working with Jack was like having a private tutor [and] on-the-job training.”

In 1985 Shannon received a regional Emmy award for sports broadcasting and in 1999 he was inducted as a broadcaster into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. And until 2021, Shannon remained a fixture of the broadcast booth; following Buck’s death, Shannon developed new friendships in the booth until John Rooney joined as the permanent foil for Shannon. And, much like the city and Shannon, the two shared a family bond.

In 2021, Shannon granted an interview with KSDK-TV, and spoke about his then-impending retirement.

“People ask me if I’m really gonna retire, and I say, ‘Hell yeah. 50 years is long enough, man. If you can’t screw it up in 50 years you can’t screw it up.’,” Shannon said.

“The biggest compliment I get is from the visually impaired. When they come to the ballpark and bring a radio and say, ‘The picture is painted for me.’ That’s the greatest compliment because they can’t see what’s going on,” Shannon said.

Usually, near the end of one’s life, people are asked how they’d want to be remembered.

For Shannon, he wants fans to know one thing; That he had a good time.

“That he enjoyed himself. I’m pretty sure they (the fans) say that… I had a good time. I made sure of that,” Shannon laughed.

We had a good time too, Mike.

Thanks for the memories.


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