Will it be a 50 finale for Mike Shannon?
Multiple sources say 2021 will be the last year in the Cardinals’ radio booth for Shannon, who began there in 1972 and is heading into his 50th season in that role.
Shannon could not be reached for comment on Thursday and Cardinals senior vice president Dan Farrell, who oversees the teams broadcasting operations, was vague when asked about the situation.
“We’re working on finalizing details of Mike’s contract for 2021 and hope to have it done very soon,” he said.
Shannon, now 81, has reduced his workload in recent years as part of his semi-retirement. The biggest move came in 2016, when he adopted a home-games only schedule for the regular season.
John Rooney and Rick Horton form the radio broadcast team for road contests, and Rooney works with Shannon for most home games. Mike Claiborne often fills in when one of the regulars is absent.
Shannon has worked on one-year contracts for some time, whereas others in the radio crew generally have long-term deals.
“We’re very comfortable with Rick and John, they make a great team,” Farrell said. “Once Mike has retired, we would assume they would be our (full-time) team.”
The Cardinals had only 27 contests in St. Louis last season because of the coronavirus-reduced Major League Baseball schedule, and a source said Shannon is expected to be on the call for about 50 this year in what would be his golden anniversary season.
If this ends up being Shannon’s finale, the team probably would have a marketing campaign tied to that, something a source termed “a great celebratory platform for him and the ballclub.”
Shannon has been in the Cardinals’ organization since signing as a player in 1958, then reaching the big leagues as an outfielder in 1962. He played through 1970, finishing as a third baseman in a career that was cut short because of glomerulonephritis — a defect of the filtering function of the kidney.
He was a member of three World Series teams, hitting a home run in each of those series, and was on the winning side twice.
After his on-field days ended, Shannon moved into the front office the next season as assistant director of promotions and sales. He then switched to the radio booth the following year, 1972, alongside Jack Buck. He came aboard after Jim Woods did not return.
After a rough start, Shannon got the hang of things and worked with Buck through the 2001 season — Buck’s last one in the booth before dying the following summer.
One of Shannon’s strengths has been his deep knowledge of the game.
‘’There’s not one announcer who never played big-league baseball who knows as much about the game as somebody who played for a significant period of time,” Buck once said of his partner. “And Shannon knows the game, the intricacies. Some (former players turned broadcasters) shove it down your throat. Shannon knows where to draw the line.”
While he progressed as a broadcaster, his “Shannonism” malaprops continued to endear him to fans, lines such as describing a stadium as having “a lot of crooks and nannies” and saying of Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog: “The key thing is, he has that photogenic mind.”
Shannon took the lead role in the booth after Buck’s long run ended, first working with Wayne Hagin before Rooney replaced Hagin in 2006 when the broadcasts moved from KMOX (1120 AM) to KTRS (550 AM) in a highly controversial move. That arrangement lasted five years before the games returned to KMOX, where they remain.
Shannon, who also has done a considerable amount of games on television in his career, additionally has hosted the popular baseball chit-chat show “Live at Shannon’s” over the years. It was conducted at his downtown restaurant before it closed in 2016 but has continued, and features in-depth discussions with some of the sport’s biggest names. Claiborne also is a big part of that show.
Meanwhile, no major changes are expected in the lineup of Cardinals radio or TV broadcasters this year though Tim McCarver’s situation is unclear.
McCarver, one of the TV game analysts in Fox Sports Midwest’s rotation, did not work last season because of coronavirus precaution after being advised against traveling by his doctor. McCarver, now 79, lives in Florida. So even games in St. Louis are road contests for him.
It remains to be seen what the role, if any, will be this year for McCarver — who was a teammate of Shannon’s with the Cardinals in the 1960s.
Dan Caesar • 314-340-8175 @caesardan on Twitter email@example.com