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 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
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.”
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy at Fenway Park. (Stan Grossfeld / The Boston Globe)
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. Peter 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.
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.
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.”
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 provided the coverage and narrative.