He climbed the ladder the right way, with his college years spent broadcasting football and basketball games on the school’s WRFN station and working for the student paper before, at the onset of his professional career, writing for a hometown newspaper.

Then came a subtle but notable break for Mike Claiborne. In the early 1980s, widely respected KMOX Radio asked of his interest in joining “Sports Open Line.” Soon, he was working alongside some of the giants in St. Louis sports media.

“One thing led to another, and once Rob Silverstein took over the sports department, he gave me a real shot at hosting, co-hosting and filling in,” Claiborne said. “During that time, I ended up being the color analyst for what was then known as the 7Up Basketball Shootout. My broadcast partner was Jack Buck (MSHOF Legend 2000) and that was beyond a hoot.”

Claiborne went on to prove that a hometown kid who puts in the work can reach the big leagues, as 2021 marked his 40th in sports broadcasting. Which is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Claiborne with the Class of 2021.

A former multi-sport athlete at St. Louis’ DeAndreis High School, he has covered seven St. Louis Cardinals World Series (1982, 1985, 1987, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2013) in addition to championship boxing, the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and serving as a studio host during the NFL playoffs for the St. Louis Rams.

Initially a columnist for the St. Louis American newspaper, his other duties in St. Louis have consisted of serving as a color analyst for Saint Louis University basketball and Missouri-St. Louis basketball, studio host for St. Louis Blues hockey and St. Louis Rams and a contributor for Fox Sports Midwest. He was part of starting All-Sports Radio in 1991 at KASP and went to KFNS Radio from 1993 to 2006.

This past summer was his 15th as a part of the Cardinals broadcast team with Mike Shannon, John Rooney and Ricky Horton.

“Thanks to Rob Silverstein, I stayed ready for whatever was available,” Claiborne said. “The big break came when I was the co-host of ‘The Bob Gibson Show’ during baseball season in the mid-1980s. That rolled into the ‘Live at Shannon’s’ show with Mike Shannon and Bob Gibson.”

What a journey it’s been.

He attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. But when he realized football was not going to be a professional fulfillment, he turned to the school’s radio station and newspaper. His work on football and basketball radio morphed into a daily radio sports show.

“Once I realized I would not be a pro athlete,” Claiborne said, “I wanted to say in the field of sports as it provides so many volumes to choose from when it comes to a career.”

Claiborne’s easy-going, conversational style works well for a Midwest sports audience that’s uneasy with over-the-top sports shock jock.

“I have found that chatting up is better than an interrogation,” Claiborne said. “I seldom have a list of written questions, as it is more important to be a better listener than to have my own agenda.”

He’s also a pro at handling each role.

“As a reporter, you may not have the time, so you must be concise,” Claiborne said. “With play-by-play, you are telling a story.”

Like any success story, Claiborne hasn’t forgotten those whose support meant, well, everything. They include his parents as well as the mother of his two children, Mary Claiborne, daughters Taylor and Alyxandria, and cousin Eric Armstrong.

“They all motivated me to be better and have been there for me,” Claiborne said. “My current life partner, Lori Weatherspoon, has been paramount in my continued growth.”

Among those who were mentors or positive influences were Dan Matusiak, Mike Shannon, John Rooney, Bob Ramsey, football coach Gene Stallings, KMOX’s Jim Holder, Rob Silverstein, Dan Farrell and Steve Moore.

“I have been blessed to have so many successful and positive people who have touched me,” Claiborne said. “For those who knew me in the early – and sometimes rough – moments of growth, I am truly indebted to them as they showed patience and support at a time where it was certainly needed and now appreciated.”

To him, his success is because of others.

“Being inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame may be an individual accomplishment,” Claiborne said, “but I share this great honor with so many, for it not for their input, someone else would be receiving this great honor.”