Two sports legends die on the same day

May 1, 2023
Robert Ayers

Outlets are reporting that Larry "Gator" Rivers - the former Harlem Globetrotter - and Thomas Michael Shannon - the former St. Louis Cardinals baseball player - both died on Saturday, April 29. 

The Associated Press reports that Rivers died at the age of 73.

Shannon, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, died at the age of 83 at a hospital in Savannah, Georgia.

Rivers, reportedly, died as a result of cancer, while Shannon's specific cause of death is not being reported. But, it is known that Shannon, in October 2020, contracted COVID-19 and that, after surviving the initial illness, he still suffered long-term symptoms. Still, it is unclear whether this factored into his passing.

Remembering Rivers

Rivers, initially, made a name for himself through the sport of basketball.

It started off at the all-Black Beach High School, where he and his team won the Georgia High School Association basketball tournament of 1967 - the first of its kind to include both white and Black players. From there, Rivers would go on to play college basketball at the Moberly Junior College in Missouri, where he was a standout player.

After college, Rivers would join the Harlem Globetrotters, where he would remain for 16 years.

When his time with the Globetrotters was finished, Rivers moved on from playing basketball. Instead, he returned to Savannah and started getting active in the community. And, in 2020, Rivers, as a Republican, was elected to the county commission.

Following the news of his passing, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson put out a statement, saying, Rivers "never forgot Savannah or Beach High School and dedicated endless hours of mentoring and teaching the rules of basketball and life to scores of young people. For this, he will always be remembered."

Remembering Shannon

In contrast to Rivers, Shannon's background was in both basketball in football. In high school, he was player of the year in both, and he was making a name for himself in college football as a member of the University of Missouri as well.

But, Shannon went on to sign a contract with baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. He would play there from 1958 to 1970 when he had to call it quits due to a kidney ailment that nearly took his life. But, with the Cardinals, Shannon participated in three World Series runs, in 1964, 1967, and 1968.

Shannon subsequently became a broadcaster for the Cardinals, and this would continue in one form or another all the way up to a couple of years ago.

Shannon has been recognized for his accomplishments in both playing and broadcasting baseball. He was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Cardinals’ Owner & Chief Executive Officer Bill DeWitt, Jr., following the news of Shannon's passing, said:

Mike’s unique connection to Cardinals fans and his teammates was reflected in his unbridled passion for the game, the Cardinals, and the St. Louis community.

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