It will be a day like any other for Cardinals radio announcer John Rooney. But it will also be a day like no other for him.

He will travel to Busch Stadium on Thursday and arrive approximately 2.5 hours before game time, as he has done more than a thousand times in his previous 16 seasons with the broadcast team. He’ll be spending at least the next hour and a half in the pit, meticulously assembling his roster map – not just with the names of the players, but augmenting it with stats and personal information about them. That’s even if he says “I don’t use (more than) a tenth.”

He’ll talk with the others for a bit, then take a seat behind the microphone to describe what’s unfolding in front of him to listeners on KMOX (11:20 a.m.) and the other 147 stations of the club’s largest baseball radio network.

Then, when he calls the first pitch, around 3:15 p.m., it will be oh so familiar to him but historic nonetheless. For the first time in 46 years, a season begins with someone not named Jack Buck or Mike Shannon headlining the team’s radio crew. The last newcomer came in 1976, when Buck briefly left for a national gig and Bob Starr took over the top spot alongside Shannon. But Buck’s venture at NBC was unsuccessful and he returned for a handful of games that season, then was back at the top job the following year and remained there until his death in 2002. Shannon came up and was No. 1 until retiring after last season. So Buck or Shannon have held that position for the past 45 seasons.

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And an even longer legacy comes to an end, as it’s the first time since 1960 that neither Buck nor Shannon will be in the cabin at all.

Rooney, who was Shannon’s No. 2 since joining the team in 2006, opens the season as the Cardinals’ radio voice. It’s a role he’s increasingly leaned towards in recent years, as Shannon’s schedule has been gradually reduced to the point where he only played around 50 games last season, all at home. . Rooney was therefore the main man for Shannon’s missed home games as well as road shows, working alongside Ricky Horton – as he will this season full-time – with Mike Claiborne in his absence.

While this changing of the guard is more cosmetic than impactful, it is nonetheless a milestone in the Cardinals’ rich broadcast history – but one Rooney is taking modestly.

“I’m not caught up in being No. 1 or No. 2,” he said. “Mike never treated me like I was high school.”

Rooney, 68, has had his own high-profile career, having starred in the Chicago White Sox radio booth for 17 years after one on TV before coming to St. Louis, where he had two courts previous stays at KMOX. . He was the radio voice for 10 NCAA Tournament title games and called a multitude of MLB games nationally, as well as broadcasting Mizzou football and basketball for two decades, as well as many other activities.

But broadcasting baseball is special to him.

“It’s always been what I’ve wanted to do,” he said, talking about spending time as a kid tuning the radio to listen to legendary broadcasters from faraway towns while growing up in Richmond, N.D. Missouri, about 40 miles northeast of Kansas. Town.

He says that when he was in eighth grade, his yearbook was signed by a buddy who wrote, “You’re gonna be the voice of a Major League Baseball team.” Rooney now says, “I said to him, ‘You should have gone out and got wallets in the street.'”

A great responsibility

The Cardinals radio booth has been a bastion of marquee announcers, dotted with legendary names such as France Laux, Dizzy Dean, Milo Hamilton, Joe Garagiola, Buddy Blattner, Harry Caray, Jack and Joe Buck, Shannon and Rooney.

Rooney respect history, and is eager to work to maintain the legacy.

“It’s going to be different, it’s the end of an era,” he said, adding that Horton is ready for the full-time role he now has in radio after also being on television. these last years. “Ricky is doing a great job, he’s prepared, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever worked with in any sport.”

Rooney promises to continue the approach he had with Shannon.

“Mike insisted that we have a good time and laugh a lot, and we plan to keep it that way,” he said. “If we don’t have a good time, it’s just blah blah blah. Who wouldn’t have a good time calling Cardinals games?”

But it won’t be all fun and games.

“Mike has said it many times, we’re stewards of this chair, there will be a next generation one day,” Rooney said. “You bet I take this seriously.”

Rooney has been serious about the business for decades. Bob Costas, who rose to national fame, worked with Rooney on Mizzou’s basketball shows early in their careers and saw him early on.

“I realized then that he was going to be very good, a classic play-by-play radio presenter,” Costas said. “He had the right rhythm and pace.”

Touch key

Rooney did an outstanding job last year helping Shannon through his farewell season, as the veteran’s on-air fastball had lost some of its momentum following a bad bout with COVID-19.

Rooney tactfully filled in the gaps, providing names and background information when needed to discuss a player. Even more impressive was that when additional detail was needed to describe a play on the pitch, sometimes a complex circumstance, Rooney didn’t just step in and take over. Instead, he was explaining the situation conversationally with Shannon, like they were just hanging out and watching the game and talking about what was going on.

It was a masterful and respectful approach.

“John Rooney was an incredible pro when we needed him,” Claiborne said. “He and Mike are the two best teammates I’ve ever worked with. John is a consummate pro.”

Rooney said he was just part of the team.

“Mike always preached the team concept in the pit,” he said. “(Everyone on the broadcast team) said, ‘We’re going to do everything to help Mike and make this memorable throughout his career. “…I hope we were able to do that. As a team, we owe that to each other.”

Now Rooney is moving forward, but also looking back.

“It’s a great thing to be a Cardinal broadcaster and to be in this booth,” he said. “It’s the St. Louis Cardinals, a top stand. To be able to tell that story every day…”

He then followed up with an anecdote about Jack Buck having said how blessed he had been, wondering why God had been so good to him.

“I feel the same way,” Rooney said. “I really do.”

get started

KMOX begins its opening day coverage at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning, with Charlie Brennan and Amy Marxkors leading their show from the station’s “Kegs and Eggs” festivities outside Busch Stadium. Tom Ackerman, Dave Glover and Kevin Wheeler take over at 11 a.m. before KMOX joins the team network at 1:40 a.m. for reports hosted by Wheeler. This lasts until the start of the match and includes the ceremonies on the pitch.

For those interested in checking out the Spanish version of the show, WIJR (880 AM) begins coverage at 2:15 a.m. Polo Ascencio and Bengie Molina have the call.

On television, Bally Sports Midwest programming begins at 1:30 p.m. and includes pregame on-field presentations. Alexa Datt, Horton and Brad Thompson run the show from inside the stadium. Then Dan McLaughlin and Jim Edmonds broadcast the game with reporter Jim Hayes. Coverage is also done on the Bally Sports app.