Hat’s Off

A special “Tip of the Hat” to Joe Parisi for writing this week’s blog! Thanks Joe!

While watching the Cardinals game this week, an incident took place that could send MLB pitchers scrambling for a new advantage…
As Cardinal reliever Gio Gallegos entered the game, Umpire “Cowboy” Joe West immediately requested that he remove his cap for examination. I have noticed spots of rosin, dirt, etc. on the caps of many big leaguers, and it has always been ignored or not dealt with. With the number of hit batsman this season, it appears that maintaining a firm grip on the ball has been challenging for many pitchers. When West took the hat to be sent for evaluation of the substance, Cards Mgr. Mike Schildt exploded, even offering his cap to Gio. After a few choice words to West, Schildt was asked to leave the premises. (Ejected) The saga became much more interesting during Schildt’s post game interview, calling pitchers doctoring the ball, “Baseball’s Dirty Little “Secret”. Although umpires have clamped down on pitchers going to their mouth, the contents in their gloves, on their uniforms, etc. remain unknown.(Cards reliever Julian Tavares also experienced “hat gate”, throwing his hat in question into the stands, during the La Russa era. At this writing, there has been no response from MLB re: the cap, or any change in how this “Dirty Little Secret” will be monitored going forward. I remember former reliever Steve Kline, whose cap was the idea for a Cards promo night…a simulated dirty, beat up cap give way to the first 25,000 fans. Boy, have times changed!

Speaking of “Hats Off”, its time we recognize one of St. Louis’s own, “Old Irish”, Cards Broadcaster Mike Shannon. A super athlete at CBC High, Shannon was tabbed a future Heisman Trophy Winner as a QB at Mizzou. Rumor has it that Shannon could heave a football 80 yds in the air!
Well, lucky for us, Mike was lured into signing a contract with the Cardinals. After a brief stint in the minors, Mike was called to the Big Show in ’63 and was the Right Fielder for the ’64 World Champion Cardinals. Mike will always always be remembered for his home run off Yankee Ace Whitey Ford in the ’64 series.

Once the Cardinals traded for Yankee Star Roger Maris, Right Field was home to Maris. Shannon was asked to learn 3rd base, to fill a team void. Mike worked with long time Cardinal guru George Kissell and learned enough to become the everyday 3rd baseman, again, a key member of the ’67 World Champs and the ’68 NL Champion squad.

A fine physical specimen, it was a shock to the entire St. Louis community when Shannon was diagnosed with a severe kidney ailment, requiring him to retire as an active player. Just as Mike was exploring a post baseball career of insurance or car salesman, Cards owner Gussie Busch came to his rescue, teaming him with Jack Buck as an on air voice of the Cardinals. I’m sure we all remember his rough start, and he endured much criticism, however, with Buck providing daily guidance, Mike became a much loved Voice of the Cardinals. His ability to tell a story, reach for a cold frosty one, and his” get up baby”, willing a deep fly ball over the fence, have become St. Louis royalty! Mike has been a finalist several years for the Ford Frick Award, which would place him into the broadcasters wing of the Hall of Fame. Not at smooth as Scully, as homespun as Ernie Harwell, or the Toast Master/ MC as Buck, but one of St. Louis’s all time personalities, who has been a part of the St. Louis Sports Scene for 50 years! I’d love to see Mike invited to Cooperstown. Hat’s Off Ole Irish….you’ll be missed!

This off season, the task to name Shannon’s successor will be a hot topic.. Let’s take a look at some of the contenders….John Rooney has carried the broadcasts this season, as Mike has been trying to recoup from a severe bout of COVID-19. John is very experienced and does a fine job, but is no spring chicken, so will the Cards want to keep things “comfy” or go younger? Rick Horton has been getting plenty of air time on radio and tv. Brad Thompson also has been gaining more tv time, along with his daily radio show on ESPN. Mike Clairborne, a Shannon protégé, has been handling some on field interviews and occasional on air duties.
OR……will the Cards search “outside” for a voice to entertain us for the next 50 years? I suspect that the search will result in an internal search, for continuity sake. Not sure who is “out there” that makes sense….perhaps the readers have a take? Personally, I prefer the “characters”, ala Harry Caray, Dizzy Dean, Joe Garagiola, etc. There will always be a “color guy” providing the stats, outs, count, etc, but the “characters of the game” is what keeps fans tuning in.

Speaking of “Hats off”, let’s salute our Weekly “Blogmaster”, Bob Ryan.
The ole coach is “Off on Assignment”, as they say in the trade, but is expected back next week…Thanks Coach for letting me pinch hit this week!

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