In the span of five months, Mike Shannon transformed from Cardinals reject to World Series standout.
“Show you can hit”
After short stints with the 1962 and 1963 Cardinals, Shannon, 24, began the 1964 season as a reserve outfielder with St. Louis. He got three at-bats and struck out each time.
In early May, general manager Bing Devine informed Shannon he was being sent to Class AAA Jacksonville. According to the Associated Press, Shannon and Devine had this exchange:
Shannon: “What do you want of me?”
Devine: “We’d like to see you hit more. If you show us you can hit, we’ll bring you back.”
Shannon produced 80 hits in 70 games for a Jacksonville club managed by Harry Walker. Good to his word, Devine brought back Shannon to the Cardinals on July 7. Manager Johnny Keane gave him the chance to be the everyday right fielder.
In mid-August, with the Cardinals in fifth place and apparently out of contention, team owner Gussie Busch, acting on the advice of Rickey, fired Devine with six weeks left in the season.
Bob Broeg, longtime St. Louis sports journalist, uncovered an Aug. 10 memo written by Rickey that urged the Cardinals to dump Shannon.
“I would let Shannon go back to Jacksonville for the balance of the (1964) season.” Rickey wrote in the memo, which was published in The Sporting News. “I would even let Shannon go to the draft of Triple-A if major league waivers could be secured. I don’t believe we can win the pennant in 1965 with Shannon as a regular player on the Cardinals club, or (Carl) Warwick or (Charlie) James or (Bob) Uecker or (Jerry) Buchek.”
Shannon, however, remained with the 1964 Cardinals. Keane continued to play him and Shannon produced. He delivered nine home runs and 43 RBI after his promotion from Jacksonville, helping the Cardinals surge and win the National League pennant on the last day of the season.
Denting the scoreboard
In Game 1 of the World Series, Shannon started in right field and batted sixth, between left-handed batters Bill White and Tim McCarver. In his first World Series at-bat, Shannon singled off Whitey Ford and scored.
The Yankees, however, led, 4-2, when Shannon batted with one on and one out in the sixth. A south wind was blowing about 15 mph toward left field. Ford delivered a high slider. Shannon connected and sent a towering shot toward left. Helped by the wind, the ball cleared the wall and kept rising until it crashed between the letters “B” and “U” in the Budweiser sign atop the 75-foot-high scoreboard at Busch Stadium I.
Witnesses estimated the home run traveled more than 450 feet and likely as far as 475 to 500 feet.
“That was about the longest ball I’ve ever seen hit out here,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane said to the Associated Press.
Said Shannon: “That homer gave me the biggest thrill of my life.”
The two-run home run, described by the Associated Press as a “Ruthian wallop,” tied the score at 4-4 and, reported The Sporting News, “seemed to ignite a spark among the Redbirds.” Video
The Cardinals scored twice more in the inning, taking a 6-4 lead, and won, 9-5. Shannon was 2-for-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI. Boxscore
“If I picked the turning point of the game _ the one that got us the chance we needed and inspired the players _ it would have to be Shannon’s home run,” Keane told the Associated Press.
Hit or miss
Shannon started in right field in all seven games of the 1964 World Series. He led the Cardinals in runs scored (6) and in strikeouts (9) and batted .214 (6-for-28) with no walks. Spanning two games, Shannon struck out in 5 consecutive at-bats: twice against Pete Mikkelsen in Game 5 and three times against Jim Bouton in Game 6.
He became the fifth player in World Series history to strike out in 5 consecutive at-bats. The others: Josh Devore, 1911 Giants; George Mogridge, 1924 Senators; George Pipgras, 1932 Yankees; and Mickey Mantle, 1953 Yankees.
Shannon was the first Cardinals batter to strike out nine times in a World Series since Jim Bottomley did so in 1930. Since then, Vince Coleman struck out 10 times with the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series. Two other Cardinals _ Jack Clark in 1985 and Willie McGee in 1987 _ each struck out nine times in a World Series.
For overcoming his doubters and contributing significantly to the Cardinals’ championship, Shannon was awarded a full World Series winners share: $8,622.19.
Previously: How Mike Shannon became a Cardinals catcher