Cardinals broadcaster Brad Thompson reflects on Mike Shannon’s love of the game

The TV color analyst says enjoying what you are doing and building genuine connections are the biggest takeaways from Shannon’s legacy.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 7:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Cardinal Nation continues to mourn a legend, from the field to the booth, as the loss of Mike Shannon is reverberating across St. Louis Monday.

His voice was the soundtrack to Cardinals baseball for generations.

“It’s a shock to hear anything like that,” Cardinals’ Color Analyst on Bally Sports Brad Thompson shared. “You knew Mike’s health was declining a bit. You never expect something like that.”

Thompson, who first joined the Cardinals as a pitcher back in 2005, said he found out about Shannon’s passing early Sunday morning. He got a call from KMOX broadcaster Mike Claiborne, a dear friend of Shannon’s.

Thompson had just visited Shannon two weeks prior, when Shannon was at Busch Stadium for a home game.

“He was in a party suite with his wife Lori, other family and friends,” Thompson explained. “It was just cool to see him. The ballpark feels right with Mike Shannon in it. All the other broadcasters went to see him. You know of the love and reverence we have for him.”

Among that group circling Shannon were Claiborne, John Rooney, Ricky Horton and Chip Caray.

“To put it into perspective, and see Mike, there, the ringleader holding court,” Thompson shared. “Whatever room he was in, you would see people gravitate that way. You could smell his cologne from down the hall, too, so you would run into the same room, like, ‘Mike’s here, I gotta hear a story.’ The fact that he went from player to dominating broadcast for 50 years. That’s a legend.”

Standing in his home’s front office, Thompson said what made Shannon a legend was that he used his iconic voice to befriend everyone he met, and each person who tuned their radio to that day’s Cardinals game.

“I feel like it’s hard to build connections now. So many more things you can reach out. I’ll look over here, there is this social media. You had Mike. You had Mike Shannon, his personality, his honesty, I’m not sure you can build that bridge the same way today,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s admiration for Shannon started in that ‘05 season, where Thompson would get called up to help out the Cardinals in the bullpen. Pressed for his best memory while pitching for the Cards, Thompson pointed to getting interviewed by Shannon after a game.

“I remember winning the Mike Shannon player of the game,” Thompson explained. “You would end up getting a gift card to Shannon’s which was awesome, by the way, as a rookie, you didn’t have to buy a meal that night. I didn’t play well to get too many of those but, I remember him talking after the game. He’s just like, ‘Tell me about that one big boy.’”

“He just has a way of interviewing you where it was free flowing,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t long questions, he was just like, ‘Hey what about that one.’ And then you just go on, it was so cool to interact with him. He was so genuine in everything he did. He loved baseball and wanted to hear your story of it.”

Thompson, like Shannon, made the move from player to the broadcast booth. He said Shannon was always there if you needed him, but the established TV analyst in 2023 says when he was up-and-coming, he was intimidated by Shannon.

“Not because he would treat me badly. He was awesome to me,” Thompson explained. “I didn’t want to bother him. I just wanted to be around, watch, and observe. Through observing, he helped me a lot. One of the things I learned was, be myself. Mike was genuine, that’s Mike. You hear him on the radio, you see him at dinner, that’s what you will get. I think there are a lot of people, you don’t have that.”

Thompson said Shannon offered a great outline of how to enjoy the game and how to portray it to the listener. Thompson said baseball is a release, after all.

“Regular life can stink sometimes so if you dedicate a couple hours to listen to Mike Shannon, John Rooney, Mike Claiborne, and Rick Horton on the radio or watching us on the TV, it’s an escape. The last thing we would want to or Mike would want to is belabor the point. Every game is a blessing to call and watch and that’s something he did so well.”

As you can imagine, any former ballplayer could have an impressive collection, and Thompson is no different. Among the World Series rings and bobbleheads sits a plaque with a golfer sculpted on the front. As you can guess, that’s a setup to another Mike Shannon story.

“Whitey Herzog has his tournament each year,” Thompson shared. “I got paired up with Mike, his wife Lori, and some ringers in the group. Let’s be honest. We ended up winning, I do have the trophy. Won that bad boy, when we saw Mike at the ballpark a couple of weeks ago he said, ‘Hey, I still got that trophy big boy’ and I said, ‘Me too.’”

“It’s just any time to spend with someone like Mike was a blessing. You knew it in the moment you were spending with him that it was special,” Thompson said.

Shannon will always be present with Cardinal Nation. His stories, calls, and kindness will be reflected on and celebrated as baseball gospel. But maybe his greatest gift was the rare ability to make someone feel special and a part of the game.