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Broadcasters ready for new Busch

Broadcasters ready for new Busch

ST. LOUIS -- Wayne Hagin walks into the venerable broadcast booth at Busch Stadium and the first thing he thinks about is the man who held his seat before him: Jack Buck. Hagin looks ahead to the new Busch Stadium and has difficulty conceiving of what it will be like.

"When I walk into that booth in the new ballpark next year, it will change," said Hagin. "Because every time I walk into this booth, I think of Jack Buck. That's how much I thought of him. It isn't the pictures and all that. It's just the feeling that you have. He walked into that door to work in that ballpark, and it's an honor to be there. It's a blessing and an honor to have that job."

From the old Sportsman's Park, where Joe Garagiola and Harry Caray called games, to the current Busch Stadium, with a booth made famous by Buck and Mike Shannon, to the new Busch Stadium, calling Cardinals games has always been a job with a certain aura to it. For Hagin and Shannon, inaugurating a new booth in 2006 will be a thrill.

"That's an honor," said Hagin. "Absolutely."

Buck's name comes up again and again in discussions of calling Cardinals games, even three years after his passing. The booth in new Busch Stadium will surely echo the legendary announcer, but calling games in a place where Buck never worked will be a change.

"I wonder what they thought when they went from Sportsman's Park to this one," Hagin said. "The Sportsman's Park broadcast booth might have been even more, because it had Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola and Jack Buck. But this one holds an awful lot of memories for me."

His partner, Shannon, has a lifetime of memories of baseball in St. Louis. He played at the previous ballpark, also called Busch Stadium in its last years. He won two World Series as a player, one in each of the first two parks that carried the Busch designation. And for more than three decades, he's called games in the park that the Cardinals will leave after this season.

"I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it," said Shannon. "It's going to be wonderful. Busch Stadium has been fantastic. It's had a great run. It's been dynamite. It doesn't have to take a back seat to anything.

"But it's like that brand new car that you drove for 20 years. It was fantastic, and you loved it, but now a new one is coming on, and we're going to go to that. But she has provided us with so many great opportunities."

Shannon, like television broadcasters Rick Horton and Al Hrabosky, has a dual perspective on the old ballpark. All three men played for the Cardinals before they moved upstairs to call games.

Shannon played for St. Louis from 1962-70, one of the great golden eras in the franchise's history. Horton was a Cardinal from 1984-87 and 88-89, playing in a pair of World Series. Hrabosky never played for a pennant winner in St. Louis, but he was a fan favorite for his animated demeanor and toughness out of the bullpen.

The man known as the "Mad Hungarian" will never forget the day that the crowd showed him just how much of a favorite he was.

"It would have been the 'We Hlove Hrabosky Hbanner Hday,'" Hrabosky said when asked about his favorite playing moment. "It was a protest for my not making the All-Star team in '75."

Hrabosky's highlight as a broadcaster is much more recent. He points to the 2004 season, when the Cardinals won 105 games and brought the World Series back to St. Louis for the first time since 1987. For Hagin, who has called Cardinals games since 2002, the signature moment came in last year's National League Championship Series, when Jim Edmonds' 12th-inning homer forced a Game 7.

"The Game 6 walk-off home run by Edmonds," said Hagin. "Bar none.

"The thing I remember is that I was not expecting a home run, like you usually do with Edmonds. He had struggled that night. For him to hit that home run, I jumped out of my seat -- as did mike Shannon, by the way. That was an incredible moment for me and one I'll never, ever forget."

Horton's mind, meanwhile, goes to one of the more infamous occurrences in St. Louis postseason baseball, when Vince Coleman was injured by a mechanical tarp machine before a game in the 1985 NLCS.

"The thing I remember most is when Vince got caught in the tarp," Horton said. "It sticks out, because it was a very emotional moment. It was a high-tension moment because it was in the playoffs. I remember where I was standing and all the feelings about that, because it was so traumatic. You really didn't even have any idea about whether he might be hurt seriously."

That doesn't outweigh the warmer memories for Horton. It just beats them to the punch in his mind. At 45, he's still not a grizzled veteran in the broadcasting business, and the memory of his first game is still fresh.

"The first time that I worked a game on radio with Jack Buck stands out to me," he said. "It wasn't what was going on on the field. It was the fact that I kept looking over and realizing that I'm actually doing a game with Jack Buck, and this guy is the greatest. I admired him, and I was scared to death, and I was thrilled and enjoying it, all at once. That's a moment that sticks out to me."

Starting next spring, they'll all start building a new bank of memories, in a new ballpark. But it will be hard to top the ones they already have.

"The ball that Mike Laga hit out of the ballpark," Shannon said. "(Glenn) Brummer stealing home. Certainly (Mark) McGwire's home runs. ... We've had some unbelievable moments. Brock, the 3,000th base hit.

"I could go forever."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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