ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The connection between a St. Louis Cardinals legend who faced a life-threatening battle with COVID-19 and a business executive for a company that makes a leading COVID-19 medication. The two have never met. For now, a baseball is their bond.
Rich O’Neal of St. Charles County is the Vice-President of Market Access for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals of Tarrytown, NY. He is a collector of Cardinals memorabilia. He has 9 autographed baseballs from Cardinals legends including Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, and Albert Pujols.
In a way, his newest autographed ball has little to do with baseball. The ball was signed by former Cardinals player and long-time announcer, Mike Shannon.
In the Spring, Shannon revealed that he’d been hospitalized with COVID-19, in the Fall. He credited his recovery to the same medication that former President Trump heralded in his COVID-19 battle: the antibody medication “Regen Cov” from Regeneron.
Part of O’Neal’s job is to get the medication to the most people possible. The medication has been tremendously effective in treating high-risk COVID-19 patients within 10 days of testing positive. Still, it’s a burden for O’Neal, who wishes he could do more.
“We’re up to almost 600,000 deaths in the U.S.,” O’Neal said. “It’s just way too many and tough to hear that on a day-in, day-out basis.”
Then, word came of Shannon recovering after using the medication.
O’Neal found out on St. Patrick’s Day, the very day he and his wife, Amy, went to a Cardinals Spring Training game at the Houston Astros stadium in Florida. The Astros home field seemed a strange place to find a “Mike Shannon” autographed baseball at a memorabilia stand but there it was.
“We were going out to get a quick drink, getting up between innings,” O’Neal said. “We saw a bunch of baseballs. I thought they were going to be Houston Astros baseballs then I see Mike Shannon’s. We had just read the article on the way to the game. I said, ‘Amy this is amazing. Mike Shannon took our medication and he’s doing better. This is wonderful to hear’. I said, ‘I’m getting this baseball. It’s got to be a sign.’”
His autographed ball collection has now grown to ten. It’s as if one of them can speak. When O’Neal looks at the “Mike Shannon” ball he hears that legendary voice, the sound of summer in St. Louis.