So, it’s Mike Shannon’s 50th and final year in the Cardinal broadcast booth. Everyone has a favorite Mike Shannon story. Mine dates back over 20 years to June 2000.
The scene: A small family gathering in North County where Mike is in deep conversation with my two young sons, who had just come from their grandpa’s funeral. Mike, I should mention, is their great uncle.
Funeral clothes had been changed, lunch had been served and Mike was asking the boys for their opinion of his abilities as a broadcaster.
Sam, who was six and not stupid, heaped great praise on his great uncle’s broadcasting skills. Will, more worldly at age eight, saw an opportunity to share some constructive criticism.
“You exaggerate sometimes,” Will told him plainly. Mike asked him to explain.
Will was ready with an example. “When someone hits a fly ball, you’ll say, ‘He hit that ball a mile high!’
But that’s not true,” Will continued. “No one can hit a ball a MILE HIGH. That might confuse some kids.”
Mike agreed he had a point.
Soon the three moved to the backyard for a game of Wiffle ball. As my boys tell it, Mike pitched and they took turns at bat. After a time, Mike announced it was his turn at the plate.
He asked my husband to take the mound. Frank threw one pitch. Mike took one swing.
Look, I am not good at play-by-play descriptions — especially when I did not personally witness what happened next. But Sam says that you should think Pujols-Lidge in game five of the 2005 National League Championship Series.
Yes, according to oft-told Bufe legend, that light-weight, perforated plastic ball sailed off Mike’s bat from the bottom of a backyard hill, over a two-story house and onto the front doorstep of the house across the street. Neither brother has seen a Wiffle ball hit that hard since.
They begged Mike to do it again. He knew better. Instead, he told them to tune into the Cardinals game on KMOX the following day.
So, they did. They also turned on their cassette tape recorder, just in case.
Inning after inning they listened, paying extra attention when it was Mike’s turn at the mic.
Finally, late in the game, there was a high fly ball.
“He must have hit that ball a HALF a mile high!” Mike exclaimed.
He went on to tell his partner in the booth — some say it was Jack Buck, some say it was Joe — that in the past he sometimes exaggerated how high a ball was hit, but he was going to try to be more accurate. Then he explained why, much to the delight of his great nephews.
This story may pale in comparison to the many great baseball moments and colorful “Shannonisms” Mike is known for, but it meant the world to two young Cardinal fans who had just lost their grandpa. That’s why it’s my favorite Mike Shannon story.