The Hagin-Shannon-Rooney Affair

Brian Walton's take on the major changes in the Cardinals broadcasting booth.

I have been asked why I hadn't commented on the change in the Cardinals radio broadcasting crew announced at the end of last week. I have to admit that I needed a few days to sort out my thoughts with the help of some others who were closer to the situation.

The bottom line for me is that when he was originally hired in St. Louis, Wayne Hagin needed to accomplish two things. Surprisingly enough, he came up short in the one that initially seemed to be the more attainable of the two.

 

It is universally acknowledged that no one could replace the late Jack Buck. Yet, in terms of his knowledge and approach to the game, Hagin proved to Cardinals listeners that he belonged in this or any other baseball booth. However, his own personal Waterloo may have occurred due to his inability to fully mesh with Mike Shannon.

 

Say what you want about Shannon's story-telling, gravelly delivery or malaprops, but the fact remains that he is "The Man" in terms of Cardinals broadcasting and will continue to be as long as he wants to be. Shannon earned that through his years wearing the Birds on the Bat as a World Champion player as well as 34 years of service behind the microphone.

 

Like any relationship between two co-workers, the die between Shannon and Hagin was likely cast at the very start, and three years later, it was what it was. Fully understanding that, the Cardinals seized the opportunity to make a change, in hopes of establishing an even better chemistry on the airwaves.

 

Putting people and personalities aside, I can understand that. While Hagin has a strong resume, John Rooney's is even stronger. He has worked the NFL, the NCAA Tournament, the World Series and college football bowl games, establishing a national presence. Rooney is a Missouri native and worked for KMOX in the 1980's and on Mizzou basketball broadcasts. I lived in Minnesota when Rooney called games for them and recall I was disappointed when he left after the Twins' 1987 World Series win.

 

Yet, while I cannot fault the fundamental decision to make a change, it is a separate discussion regarding how that change was handled by Cardinals management, a process in which Hagin was the recipient of "shabby treatment" and was the victim of an "ambush", said Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch. Even team president Mark Lamping, who apparently delivered the news himself, coined it a "blindsiding". A pretty damning quote, if you ask me.

 

Hagin deserved better. Heck, anyone would deserve better. Yet, it isn't the first time that team management has been accused of insensitivity in personnel matters with on and off-field employees. While that does not justify how this change went down, it does help explain it a bit. But, just a bit.

 

Personally, I am sorry to see Hagin go. He was always supportive of me and willing to help, despite the ample time pressures he faced in his job and in his many community-facing activities. I will always remember that.

 

Initially, I was unsure if his enthusiastic persona was genuine or not. It didn't take long for me to learn that Hagin is totally sincere – a truly good man. Yet, he knew what we all knew – that his partnership with Shannon was not ideal.

 

As a result, it was time for a change. Hagin has made it clear that he will move on and protect the interests of his family, which is where his priorities should be at a time like this. It is too bad his tenure in St. Louis had to end this way, but I know I am not alone in wishing Wayne Hagin nothing but the best.

 

The facts:

 

  • The Cardinals decided to make a change in the radio booth for 2006 and beyond, replacing Wayne Hagin with John Rooney.

  • Earlier this season, Hagin made a statement on a radio program alleging "juicing" by Colorado's Todd Helton that led to embarrassing apologies from Hagin and the Cardinals.

  • Still, Hagin had been told before the end of the season that he would remain for the final year of his contract in 2006.

  • The Cardinals tried to hire Rooney before, after Buck's passing, but he was unavailable at that time. Now, due to a salary dispute with his former employer, the Chicago White Sox, Rooney was looking for a new home.

  • Rooney has strong local ties and is an accomplished and highly-respected broadcaster.

  • Team management consulted Shannon before making the change and it was strongly implied in the P-D that Shannon endorsed the plan.

  • The Cardinals will pay Hagin for the final year of his Cardinals contract.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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