In considering a career path for 1972, Mike Shannon could have attempted a comeback as a Cardinals player or accepted a position on manager Red Schoendienst’s coaching staff. He might even have become a minor-league manager. Instead, he became a Cardinals broadcaster.
On Jan. 13, 2014, the Cardinals announced that Shannon, 74, had signed a three-year contract extension to remain on their broadcasting team through 2016. The 2014 season will be Shannon’s 43rd as a Cardinals broadcaster.
Shannon, who helped the Cardinals win three National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1960s as a right fielder and then a third baseman, had his playing career cut short in 1970 because of a kidney disease. After spending the 1971 season as the Cardinals’ assistant director of promotions and sales, Shannon was looking for another role.
In a column for The Sporting News in October 1971, Dick Young wrote that none other than Stan Musial told him that Shannon “will try to make a comeback with the Cardinals” in 1972.
A month later, The Sporting News reported that “Shannon had been in the picture as a coach” for Schoendienst’s 1972 staff.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that Bing Devine, St. Louis’ general manager, had offered Shannon the chance to become manager of the Cardinals’ 1972 Class AAA Tulsa club, replacing Warren Spahn.
So it was somewhat surprising when Shannon was selected in November 1971 to replace Jim Woods on the Cardinals broadcast team for 1972.
Uncommon common sense
“I don’t think I was looking at doing it past one year,” Shannon told Mike Eisenbath of the Post-Dispatch in an Aug. 11, 1996, article that paid tribute to the broadcaster’s 25th anniversary on the job. “I just figured, ‘I think I’ll try this.’ ”
Wrote Eisenbath: “It’s been 25 years since someone had the wild idea to try Shannon in the KMOX broadcast booth. Turned out to be pure inspiration … Shannon has given Cardinals fans 25 years of expertise, laughter, malaprops, insight and frequent doses of uncommon common sense.”
Reflecting on his 1972 debut in the booth alongside Jack Buck, Shannon said, “My big problem was the mechanics of it. It’s like walking into a new home. Where’s the kitchen? Where’s the bathroom?”
Shannon said he tries to assume the role of a teacher in his broadcasts. “I might have the knowledge, but for me to try to get it across to someone _ this is what my job really is all about,” he said. “To teach, to entertain, to report. And I like to have a little fun.”
He never tried to be perfect. “Perfection was hung on a cross a long time ago,” Shannon said.
From player to broadcaster
Shannon’s first year in the Cardinals’ broadcast booth was the second year that his 1964 St. Louis teammate, Bob Uecker, worked as a Brewers broadcaster. Like Shannon, Uecker remains in that job in 2014.
Other former players who joined Shannon and Uecker as team broadcasters in 1972: Jerry Coleman (Padres), Don Drysdale (Rangers), George Kell (Tigers), Phil Rizzuto (Yankees), Bill White (Yankees), Johnny Pesky (Red Sox), Herb Score (Indians), Rocky Colavito (Indians), Lou Boudreau (Cubs), Joe Nuxhall (Reds), Waite Hoyt (Reds), Ralph Kiner (Mets) and Richie Ashburn (Phillies).
The 1972 Cardinals broadcast team was Buck, Shannon and Mike Walden.
Besides Jack Buck, here are others who were Cardinals broadcasters on radio or television during Shannon’s tenure in the booth:
Jay Randolph, Harry Walker, Bob Starr, Dan Kelly, Bob Carpenter, Ken Wilson, Al Hrabosky, Ozzie Smith, Rich Gould, Joe Buck, George Grande, Bob Ramsey, Dan McLaughlin, Joel Meyers, Wayne Hagin, Rick Horton, John Rooney and Mike Claiborne.
Previously: Mike Shannon almost became Cardinals’ coach