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Cusumano: St. Louis will never have another like Mike Shanahan

St. Louis will never have another one like him. As his friend, Kim Tucci said, "He was the best of the best."

I haven’t met many like him.

I wasn’t his best friend or anything close to it. I just knew that every time I was around Mike Shanahan I felt good.

If anybody in our town looked the part of Chairman of the Board, it was Mr. Shanahan. He was just confident enough to always lead but humble enough to always make you think like he was one of us.

He never really fit in the Civic Progress group. He wasn’t from old money. He was from the other side of the tracks so they never accepted him.

But people accepted his money. I am not sure if St. Louis has ever had a more generous person. Ask St. Louis University what he has done for them. Or ask Trinity High School. Or ask Cardinal Glennon Hospital.

One time a group called Mike about having a birthday party for former Blues General Manager Ron Caron. Mike took over and paid for the entire party. Congressman Bill Clay called one day to have a fundraiser for his scholarship fund and Mike ended up hosting the party at the Arena Club. There are literally hundreds of other charities who have a similar Mike Shanahan story.

He was the most gracious kind sports executive I have ever met. One time a photographer and I went to his house for an interview. We finished the interview. He said I have a couple of bottles of wine for each of you.

We spent a little time together on the golf course. When my son, Alex, would have an event at his club he would always make sure to be there following him and rooting for him. It was always brutally hot and he went out of his way to drive my wife Monique around the course. He was the dictionary definition of a gentleman. And I promise you anybody who ever knew him would agree.

The Arena is where he connected with fans. They saw him at games. They saw him every night in the Owner’s Box. It was always filled with his wife, three kids and other friends and family. He didn’t just own the team. He lived Blues hockey.

He also had a real pulse for the sports fan. He knew the value of stardom and always had a star-studded roster. He knew you had to give the fans a reason to come out on a snowy Tuesday night.

He used to tell me they will always come to watch Brett Hull shoot a puck, so he took care of his superstars. He took care of his fans.

He came from humble roots. He grew up the son of a truck driver in University City. He was a star athlete at Mercy High School and later played on SLU’S 1959 National Championship Soccer Team.

He was a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the St. Louis University Hall of Fame. Later, he built his empire: Engineered Support Systems, a manufacturer of military equipment.

But above all, he was most proud of his family. His bride Mary Anne, his son Michael Junior, his daughters Meg and Maureen and his 13 grandchildren.

He was such a fighter. He even managed to make a great recovery from a double lung transplant surgery. He was doing well before falling Thursday. He passed Monday afternoon.

St. Louis will never have another one like him. As his friend, Kim Tucci said, “He was the best of the best.”