If the start of the baseball season is delayed even longer, say, to July 15, Mike Shannon, for the first time in his career, could celebrate his birthday and opening day on the same date. But, whenever the season starts, the longtime Cardinals radio voice, who will be 81, said he will be excited as he ever has been for the start of a season.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
The mysteries of an abbreviated season intrigue Shannon, who will be in the booth for a 49th season. “When they say, ‘It’s a whole new ball game,’ they’re not kidding this time,” he said.
“But it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it, I’ll tell you that. We’re going to have things that we’ve never had before.
“The strategies are going to be unbelievable between the managers and the coaches. And the players? The ones who adapt are the ones who are going to succeed. Some guys are going to fall out. They’re not going to be able to compete.
“The psychological part of the game is going to be bigger than ever. That’s the part I like anyway.”
Since spring training camps were shut down in mid-March, Shannon either has been sequestered at the Lake of the Ozarks or his residence in Edwardsville, where his restaurant, Mike Shannon’s Grill, has been active in making sure that children in the area have had breakfast. “It’s just not the kids who can’t afford it,” Shannon said. “It’s everybody.”
here has been fishing and golf at the lake. There has been gardening. “The cauliflower is up,” said Shannon.
And there has been anticipation about going back to work.
“Until they make up their minds, nobody has contacted me about anything,” said Shannon. “I assume I’m just going to do the home games. But if they want me to go to Chicago and Milwaukee, we can talk about it.”
Original proposals called for the season to begin about July 1 but Shannon thinks that may be premature.
“I think the players and the owners are a long way off,” he said last week. “It may come down to who blinks first when it comes to the money.
“This will be the first time that this batch of players gets to vote for something that’s meaningful.”
When play does resume, Shannon said that the conduct of the game on the field will go through the same historic channels.
“Baseball makes all the rules and then they go through the union. But you know who runs the game? The umpires,” he said. “They’ve been running the game for 100 years and they’re going to continue running the game. They don’t care what the players say and they don’t care what MLB says. They do what they want to do, basically.
“The game doesn’t start until the lineup cards are handed in and the umpires say, ‘Play ball,’ ” Shannon said, though perhaps the lineup card procedure will be changing.
“But I can’t wait for them to say, ‘Play ball.’ That’s the thing that I miss. Play ball.
“It’s going to be a new game when we come back. But the umpires are still going to be the boss.
“Now, they have to go by the rules like everyone else. There’s strike three and there’s ball four. They’ve been trying to speed the game up. But all you’ve got to do is tell the umpires to call strikes. That would speed the game up. I can remember Ted Williams asking me, ‘How come they’re not swinging at the high pitch?’ I said, ‘Because it’s a ball.’
“Now, if you throw it above the belt, it’s a ball. I thought it was (above) the letters.”
Shannon wonders how much the enjoyment level will change for the players, depending on how many restrictions there are.
“You’ve got to have fun in this game,” he said. “And I don’t know if it’s going to be that much fun when they have to stay six feet apart and they have to wear a mask in the dugout. They can’t spit and they can’t pat each other on the back.
“It will work its way out. It always does, trust me. People are starved for baseball. The owners are starved. The players are starved. Most of all the fans are starved for it.
“I stopped by to pick up some food the other day at a carryout and a woman came out and said, ‘I just want to hear you talk.’
“They’re starved for this thing. But we’re going to find out who the guys are who can play without fans.”
At first, there will be no crowds, then perhaps partially filled stadiums after that, which would be most noticed in parks like Busch Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, which regularly play close to or at capacity.
“It’s not going to be any problem for Miami,” Shannon said, kiddingly. “If they could only let 20,000 people in … they’d love to have 20,000.
“That would be a sellout for them.”
The KMOX radio booth likely is the largest in either league, so the six-foot rule won’t be a problem, although the stream of visitors might have to be curtailed a bit, Shannon said.
“It’s like I said to my wife, ‘You have to watch the game someplace else. You can’t come to the booth,’ ” Shannon joked.
“But what are we going to do in Chicago? That booth is not even six feet wide.”
“When they say, ‘It’s a whole new ball game,’ they’re not kidding this time.”
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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