Longtime Cardinal: Horton talks journey with St. Louis

Jan. 17—Rick Horton was drafted in the 20th round of the 1977 MLB Amateur Draft out of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, New York, by the San Francisco Giants.

Horton elected to stay in school and eventually enter college instead and was later taken in the fourth round of the 1980 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The young left-handed pitcher would have been turning 20 years old later that summer.

It was four years later when Horton would crack the big league roster and get his shot in St. Louis. He made the most of it with a debut on April 7 only allowing one run. He had seven straight scoreless outings that ranged from late April to late May in his rookie season as well.

The former player and current radio broadcaster went on to pitch for seven seasons at the big league level and five full seasons were with St. Louis. He split time in Chicago (White Sox) and Los Angeles (Dodgers) in 1988. In '89 he split time in LA and back to St. Louis before finishing his career with a full season as a Cardinal in 1990.

The 64-year-old started his radio broadcasting career with the St. Louis organization in 1997. He talked during the Cardinals Caravan event on Saturday at Missouri Southern State University about his decision to stay around St. Louis.

"I was running a not-for-profit with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in St. Louis and just loved that work," Horton said. "That was becoming a burning thing for me to want to get into broadcasting in some way.

"The way I described it is I have no equity any place else. I played in Los Angeles but they have enough people in LA that are Dodger connected. So I just waited until the time was right for me to move in more and more."

After many years of part-time work with the radio and television crews, Horton has now been working with broadcasting for 26 years, meaning he's spent over 30 either playing or broadcasting for this team — nearly half his life.

A tenure like that allows you to be around many icons in the business. Horton talked Saturday about an "iconic" man in the late Mike Shannon — another former Cardinal player turned broadcaster. The impact of Shannon on Cardinal baseball is important to many, not just Horton.

"You always try when you're working with somebody that's a real pro to get stuff from them without being them," Horton said. "That's the trick. Actually, I can add Jack Buck to that, Joe Buck, Bob Carpenter, Jay Randolph and Dan McLaughlin. I've had a lot of good partners that I've worked with."

The names just kept coming to mind for Horton as he also mentioned John Rooney. Horton said learning from others isn't "copying" them but more taking the things that impress you and trying to use it in your own way.

"One thing that Mike would always harp on with anybody that was in our business is 'Don't forget the game is hard to play,'" Horton said.

Horton says he learned from Shannon that errors by players or decisions that fail by managers don't make the players bad or make it a bad decision by the manager. It's just that things don't always work out in the game of baseball. He appreciated that most about Shannon.

"He was bigger than life. Mike was like America's guest. We love to say that on the road, because no matter where you go, they all know Mike Shannon," Horton added.

Horton told a story of visiting a restaurant in San Francisco and employees of the restaurant knew Shannon by name and he knew some of the employees by name. That ability to connect with others is what struck Horton as a young broadcaster.

"This is the most important thing I think about Mike: He gave us the link from Stan Musial to Albert Pujols," Horton said. "Our history is so important to us and Mike helped preserve that."

Horton grew up a fan of the New York Mets, having lived in the Empire State. But he recalls his grandmother's love for the Cardinals and Musial. He noted that when the family made trips together to watch games it always had to be when St. Louis was in town so grandma could watch her team as well.

"I was still a Mets fan but I didn't try to bring that up to her very often," Horton said.

His driving force goes back to that not-for-profit job he was involved in prior to being a broadcaster. In fact, he describes it as "who I am."

"The Fellowship of Christian Athletes combines two of the more important things in my life," Horton said. "Of course, my family is very important to me. My wife of 41 years — we're celebrating our anniversary coming up. And our kids.

"In terms of other things that define me, I would say I'm defined by the fact that my faith is important to me and I love sports. But how do those two things intersect? That's the great question I've had in my mind even back to high school. How do you compete as a Christian athlete? How do you coach as a Christian coach?"

Horton works as an FCA director in St. Louis still today.