COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals recently announced that Mike Shannon, former player and current play-by-play radio announcer for the team, is recovering from recent open-heart surgery.
According to a story on the team's website, which you can read here, Shannon will return to the booth September 23, just in time for the end of the season and potentially the playoffs.
Maybe it's a good time to make some changes when he returns.
Mike Shannon has been a part of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise for more than 50 years. His career started on the field in St. Louis, moved to the promotional team in the offices when his career ended, and led to the broadcasting booth shortly after.
Announcing has been kind to Shannon. He's an electric personality that fans love to listen to. His stories, insight as a former player, and signature laugh have earned him the respect and adoration of the fans in St. Louis. His style on the microphone is like no other, and he deserves to remain a fixture during Cardinals broadcasts.
Just not on play-by-play.
By no means am I suggesting that I don't like Mike Shannon. Quite the contrary, actually. I enjoy listening to Mike and especially to the "extras" that he brings to the booth. But that is my point here, actually. Shannon's skills are that of a color commentator and not that of a lead broadcaster.
For many years, Shannon was a color commentator to the legend that is Jack Buck. Buck would call the game action, painting the picture of the players on the field while Shannon gave fans insight into the game. The cohesive approach was as much a result of proper role assignment as it was the product of two talented individuals in the booth.
Shannon tends to drift into stories and lose the game action, focusing more on the content of the broadcast over the context of the game. While that may work in a television environment, it makes the game increasingly hard to follow on the radio.
John Rooney joined the broadcast team in 2006 and has done exceptional work alongside Shannon. Rooney is a classic play-by-play guy that has developed a great on-air relationship with Shannon. Their back-and-forth style plays very well across the airwaves, and he has a great ability to keep Mike on point throughout the broadcast. Rooney has been around the game long enough to understand when the game action needs more depth from a man that has been on the field and when staying focused on the action is best.
The Cardinals have brought along Rick Horton and Mike Claibourne the last few seasons and both are finding their footing as play-by-play mainstays. Horton has come a long way since his early debut, though he is still a long way from carrying a broadcast on his own. Claibourne tends to be a bit dry but is enhanced greatly when he has a veteran color commentator by his side.
A booth that featured Rooney on play-by-play on a regular basis with Horton and Claibourne covering select dates to keep Rooney fresh would find success. Shannon on color commentary is a must, and he can easily be relieved by Horton and Al Hrabosky throughout the season.
The quality of radio broadcasts in St. Louis would be enhanced by ensuring that Shannon remains a part of the booth, just back in his original role.
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