Mike Shannon hits his first career home run (9/11/1963)

Exactly one year after Mike Shannon made his major league debut, he launched the first home run of his career in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.

A St. Louis native who played his high school football and baseball at Christian Brothers College (CBC) High School and his college ball at the University of Missouri, the 23-year-old Shannon was primarily a defensive replacement at that point in his career. On September 11, 1963, he entered the game in the eighth inning as a replacement for the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial.

The Cardinals were seeking their fifth consecutive win and 14th in 15 games, including two shutout victories over the Cubs to open their four-game series at Busch Stadium. Following complete-game shutouts from Curt Simmons and Bob Gibson, the Cardinals turned to 22-year Ray Sadecki, who was 8-8 on the year with a 4.63 ERA. The Cubs countered with 23-year-old Dick Ellsworth, who had claimed his 20th win of the season earlier that month.

The two southpaws traded scoreless innings until the fourth. Dick Groat, Bill White, and Curt Flood opened the inning with consecutive singles for the Cardinals. Musial hit a sacrifice fly into center field to score Groat and Curt Flood followed with a ground ball to second base that scored White.

In the sixth, Sadecki ran into trouble for the first time. With one out, he walked Billy Williams on a 3-and-2 pitch. After striking out Ron Santo, Sadecki got ahead of Ellis Burton 0-and-2 but allowed a single that put Williams in scoring position.

It proved to be his final pitch of the game.

“I was a little bit wild, but strong,” Sadecki said. “If I get either man, I’m still in the game.”[1]

To replace Sadecki, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane called upon righthander Ron Taylor, who got Ken Hubbs to fly out to right field to strand both baserunners.

In the seventh, Keane made another move, putting Shannon into left field for Musial, whose son Dick had played alongside Shannon on CBC’s football team. An inning later, Shannon’s place in the order came up with Bill White on first base. Ellsworth hung a curveball and, in just his 13th at-bat of the season, Shannon pulled the ball over the left-field wall.

“It helps to have a young man like Shannon come off the bench and get a big hit – it takes the strain off the pitcher,” Groat said.[2]

In St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Neal Russo’s recap of the game, he wrote that Shannon’s nickname, “Moon Man,” was the product of such blasts. “He puts the ball into orbit,” Russo attributed to Shannon’s teammates.[3]

In his biography, Shannon wrote that the nickname came from an interaction with Gibson.

“I was trying to distract him and I looked up at the sky and said, ‘There’s going to be a guy that’s going to walk on that moon one of these days.’ So he started calling me ‘Moon Man,’” Shannon recalled.[4]

Shannon’s homer provided the game’s final runs as Taylor maintained the shutout, thanks in part to Flood’s eighth-inning grab of a line drive off the bat of Williams.

“That was the big play of the game,” Keane said. “I didn’t think Flood could get the ball. He had to have a heck of a jump to do it.”[5]

Sadecki was credited with his ninth win of the season after throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings, while Taylor earned his 10th save.

The Cardinals went on to sweep the Cubs as part of a 10-game win streak that pulled St. Louis within a game of the league-leading Dodgers. However, the Cardinals were unable to continue their momentum and dropped eight of their final 10 games to finish second in the National League race.

Shannon continued to see limited action the rest of the way, finishing the year with just 28 plate appearances. He appeared in 88 regular-season games in 1964, hitting nine home runs, then hit a game-tying home run off Whitey Ford in Game 1 of the World Series.

In 1967, with the addition of Roger Maris from the Yankees, Shannon converted from the outfield to third base and helped the Cardinals capture another World Series championship. The following year, he placed seventh in the National League MVP voting and once again helped the Cardinals reach the Fall Classic.

In 1970, kidney disease limited Shannon to just 55 games and ultimately ended his playing career. He finished with a .255 batting average, 68 homers, and 367 RBIs in 882 games played.

After a year in the Cardinals’ promotions and sales office, Shannon moved to the Cardinals’ radio booth, where he spent 50 years calling Cardinals games.

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[1] Neal Russo, “Shannon’s Bat Backs Shutout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1963.

[2] Neal Russo, “Shannon’s Bat Backs Shutout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1963.

[3] Neal Russo, “Shannon’s Bat Backs Shutout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1963.

[4] Mike Shannon with Rick Hummel (2022), Get Up, Baby! My Seven Decades With the St. Louis Cardinals, Triumph Books, Kindle Android Edition, Location 583.

[5] Neal Russo, “Shannon’s Bat Backs Shutout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1963.