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Press Club honors Mike Shannon as media person of the year

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 30, 2010 - Wednesday, Sept. 29, may have started out as a typical day for Mike Shannon as he tucked into a breakfast of sausage, hash browns and eggs at the ballpark, but it didn't end up that way for the Cardinals broadcaster. In the first place, you couldn't ask for a better day for baseball, Shannon said. It was slightly breezy, 74 degrees with clear skies. Then later that evening, Shannon would be honored by the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis as its media person of the year.

Days like these keep Shannon from naming a favorite single event during his 52 years in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

"Coming to the ballpark every day is the best moment," Shannon said.

A rare kidney disease forced Shannon to retire as a Cardinals player in 1970, but not before helping the team win three National League pennants and two World Series championships (in 1964 and 1967, which happen to be his two favorite seasons). Shannon worked a year in the Cards' front office before joining Jack Buck in 1972 as a play-by-play partner.

"After I retired, I didn't want to put my wife through jobs where I was gone all the time again," Shannon said. "So I turned down two openings (within the Cardinals organization): AAA manager and a big league coaching job."

So once Shannon took a seat in the radio booth, it was smooth sailing, right? Well, not quite.

"It was rough," Shannon said. "I hadn't prepared for it. But I had Jack Buck next to me, so all I had to do was sit there and watch. I learned a lot by that."

That's part of what makes the Press Club honor special to Shannon, he said.

"This honor is so great because it's the satisfaction of being honored by your peers," Shannon said. "There's no higher honor than that. I'm very proud of it and also humbled and appreciative."

The Press Club also recognized two other journalists at the event: Beacon editor Margaret Freivogel received a lifetime achievement award and St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigative reporter Jeremy Kohler received a citation for meritorious service.

The Press Club event was by turns hilarious and poignant. Shannon thanked his family, along with many others in the room. He saved special thanks for his two toasters, Tony La Russa and Joe Buck. Shannon's voice broke when speaking of his wife, Judy, who died three years ago, as well as when mentioning his family, many of whom were there.

Shannon drew laughs when he suggested that Bob Costas, Joe Buck, the late Jack Buck and the evening's emcee, Mike Claiborne, have enjoyed so much success only because they have hung on to Shannon's coattails.

But Buck also had a few laughs at Shannon's expense, especially when describing a couple of his favorite "Shannonisms." Buck's favorite:

Shannon: Lots of French foreign exchange students. I wonder where they're from.

Buck: Uh, France?

Shannon: I've heard it said that if you know English, Spanish, Italian, and I think it's French, you can go just about anywhere in this world ... except China, where they have all those derelicts."

After a pause, Joe Buck suggests that Mike meant to say "dialects."

"Yeah, dialects. That's what I mean ... but they've got a lot of derelicts, too!"

(Earlier in the day, Shannon had told an interviewer. "I'm a spontaneous guy. I just let things roll as they happen.")

Buck had the crowd roaring, but ended on a sentimental note when he reminded Shannon of how much Shannon meant to Buck's late father, Jack.

"My dad said you would have to carry him as he got sicker and sicker, and you just said, 'Don't worry, Jack. You've been carrying me for 29 years,'" Buck said.

Shannon was seen drying his eyes after that, as were many other guests in the sold-out audience of more than 500 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch.

"This is one of the greatest cities in North America," Shannon said in his acceptance remarks.

"Proof of that is in the fact that so many people come here as pro athletes or as West Coast or East Coast executives and decide to live here. St. Louis' assets are endless."

Spencer Engel is an intern with the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis.

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