2016 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Dan Shaughnessy

Written by: Craig Muder

From the time he was in grade school, Dan Shaughnessy knew what he wanted to do.

What he didn’t know was that he would eventually work with the heroes of his youth covering the National Pastime – and that he would one day join many of those writers as a fellow winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

“It’s the greatest professional honor I’ll ever have, and it’s absolutely overwhelming,” said Shaughnessy, who will receive the Spink Award – presented by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for meritorious contributions to baseball writing – at the July 23 Awards Presentation in Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend.

“Look at the names (who have previously won the award): Dick Young (1978 winner), I got to fly with him to games. Red Smith (1976 winner), I had lunch with him in Kansas City in 1980. And Peter Gammons (2004 winner) and Larry Whiteside (2008 winner), we all worked at The Globe at the same time.”

Now, Shaughnessy is part of that legacy.

Born on July 20, 1953, and raised in Groton, Mass., Shaughnessy is the youngest of five children and fell in love with baseball soon after his father, Bill Shaughnessy Sr., took him to Fenway Park in 1961 to see a Red Sox vs. Orioles game.

“No one knows more about the 1962 season than I do, because at that age I was such a sponge,” Shaughnessy said. “I had baseball cards, coins, the Strat-o-Matic game. I’d do 162-game seasons with my dice game.”

Shaughnessy also played baseball, making his high school’s varsity team as a sophomore. But he also caught the writing bug, covering events for his local paper.

“The paper was the Public Spirit, and I used a pseudonym, Lancer, because I was covering events that I was playing in,” Shaughnessy said. “I remember one basketball game in December 1970 when Lancer ripped Dan Shaughnessy because he missed a couple free throws. It was justified.”

Shaughnessy matriculated at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and considered playing baseball for the Crusaders. But at that crossroads of his life, Shaughnessy chose the press box over the diamond.

“Making the team seemed do-able, but it seemed like it would be a ‘last-guy-on-the-bench’ thing,” Shaughnessy said. “At the same time, the Holy Cross paper was recruiting me because I had written in high school. That was the fork in the road for me. They put me on the freshman football beat, and by my sophomore year I was the sports editor.”

As Shaughnessy gained experience, he also followed his future co-workers at The Boston Globe, which had assembled one of the top stables of sports writers in the country. Gammons, then The Globe’s baseball writer, was also a native of Groton and had known Shaughnessy’s brother Bill growing up.

“My mom said that I should call Peter, and I met him at Charley’s Saloon on Newbury Street (in Boston),” Shaughnessy said. “He was so gracious, and I was in love with reading The Globe. He helped me become a stringer for them, and then in 1975 I graduated and got to run quotes all summer for (the Associated Press) at Fenway Park. So I got to see that season up close.”

By 1977, Shaughnessy landed a job with the Baltimore Evening Sun as the Orioles beat writer. At 23, he had made the major leagues.

“It was just magical, to be traveling with the Orioles and working alongside Brooks Robinson, who had been in that game in 1961 at Fenway Park,” Shaughnessy said. “Earl Weaver was the manager, and I loved them.”

Following the 1978 season, Shaughnessy left to work for the Washington Star, taking on the national baseball beat at that paper. But by 1981, the Star went out of business.

“In 1981, I was in a city with no baseball team, no paper – and no baseball at all thanks to the horrible impasse (the strike) that summer,” Shaughnessy said. “So it was time to go.”

Shaughnessy quickly landed at The Globe, and was covering the Celtics beat during the 1985-86 season when Gammons left the paper.

“That Celtics team is the greatest team of all time, but Boston is all about the Red Sox, so I jumped on that beat,” Shaughnessy said. “I took over in the spring of 1986, and what a ride it was.”

2016 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Dan Shaughnessy has been covering the Red Sox since joining The Boston Globe in 1981. He is credited with coining the term "Red Sox Nation" to describe the team's fervent fan base.

Shaughnessy documented the Red Sox’s run to the World Series and subsequent loss to the Mets, producing the book “One Strike Away” and later “The Curse of the Bambino.” The “Curse” was finally reversed in 2004, and – once again – Shaughnessy became the eyes and ears of Red Sox Nation.

“In my view, 2004 is the greatest sports story ever told…almost Biblical,” Shaughnessy said. “To be down 3-0, and I was working on “Reverse the Curse” the whole year, so I had been talking with (then Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein) all year. They’re down 3-0 against the Yankees, and Theo looks at me and says ‘Yeah, your book’s really gonna suck.’ And then to have it all unfold the way it did, the Red Sox winning their first World Series in 86 years.

“There was mystery and nuance, and it was very vivid. I can’t imagine any town being tied to a team like Boston was to the Red Sox in 2004.”

Shaughnessy and his wife Marilou have three children: Sarah, the oldest; their son Samuel William Shaughnessy; and Kate, a cancer survivor who provided a bridge to a relationship with Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

“I remember being at Hall of Fame Weekend in 1989 when (Carl Yastrzemski) was inducted, and sitting at Ted’s table during a media event,” Shaughnessy said. “He arrived, looked around and said: ‘Scared to death, aren’t you?’ But just to be in his presence was amazing. No one would say anything.

“So later, my daughter has leukemia, and Ted finds her. And he always wanted to help kids who were sick. If we had met earlier, I’d have been one of those writers he didn’t like. But through Kate (now a high school teacher), I got to know him.”

Just another story in a lifetime of tales that Shaughnessy has shared with a grateful audience.

“Even my wife came to me through baseball,” Shaughnessy said. “I met her at a bar in Chicago when I was with Earl Weaver, and she was not impressed with that.

“Baseball has been very good to me.”


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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