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Baseball Hall Of Fame Honors Former Baltimore Writer Dan Shaughnessy

August 15, 2016
Like the old Kansas City Athletics American League team of the 1950s and 1960s that was often referred to as a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees (for shuttling its top prospects off to the Bronx where they would become big league stars), Baltimore has provided a pipeline of baseball writers, reporters, broadcasters and television personalities to major metropolitan newspapers and other national media outlets.

Longtime  Boston Globe columnist and Red Sox beat writer Dan Shaughnessy cut his journalistic chops as a 23-year-old cub reporter for the  Baltimore Evening Sun in 1977 and the Washington Star from 1978-1981. 

Joining a lineage of legendary writers that includes: Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon, Shaughnessy was recently honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame with its J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing," during the Hall's Induction Weekend July 23-24.

Fellow Baltimore newspaper alumni and current ESPN baseball writer and television analyst Tim Kurkjian was on hand for the Hall's Awards Presentation at Cooperstown's Doubleday Field July 23 and called Shaughnessy baseball's bravest beat reporter. 
"I've never, in my 37 years covering baseball, seen anyone be as fearless and as courageous as a baseball writer as Dan Shaughnessy," Kurkjian said.

Known for coining "The Curse of the Bambino" phrase and authoring the book of the same name chronicling the trials and tribulations of the Boston Red Sox since the team infamously sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, Shaughnessy is also well known for his sardonic wit and sharp critical commentary.

"He took on everybody in the sport if he felt that person was wrong in some way," Kurkjian said. "He was as fair as they come, but he went after anyone that he felt deserved it, and most important, he always showed up the next day to make sure that if somebody had something to say about what he wrote, that he was standing right there. That's what separates him from a lot of other people in our business -- they tear into people, but they don't show up the next day for the repercussions. He always did, and for that I admire him more than anything."

Shaughnessy and Kurkjian worked side-by-side covering the Orioles for the same paper immediately after Kurkjian graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978. 

"I'm here for Dan Shaughnessy," Kurkjian said. "He is my mentor in this business. When he was working at the  Washington Star, I was his back-up on the baseball beat. He taught me how to do this job. He taught me how to conduct myself with players and with other media, and I think he was one of the great baseball writers of all time. I think he's the best sports columnist in the country, and I wouldn't miss his induction speech for the world."

Born in Groton, Mass., July 20, 1953, Shaughnessy said the first major league game he witnessed in person was between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in 1961. 

Under the tutelage of fellow  Boston Globe baseball writer and 2004 Spink Award recipient Peter Gammons, Shaughnessy landed a job as a stringer while still in college at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Shaughnessy received much of his early professional education covering Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver and the Orioles during his first stint as a 23-year-old beat reporter in 1977. In his acceptance speech for the Spink Award, Shaughnessy referenced the friendly and casual working relationship he enjoyed with Weaver. 

"Earl Weaver was not pals with the umpires or the players, but he was a baseball writer's best friend," Shaughnessy said. "He taught us the game. When we'd overreact to streaks or slumps, Earl would remind us, 'We do this every day.' When we had to write quickly on getaway days -- you know, you had to make the bus, make the charter, the bus waits for no man -- Earl would give us ‘if’ quotes before the game, covering all possibilities. He'd say, ‘If we win, I'll say this. If we lose, I'll say this. And whoever gets the game-winning hit, I'll say, "That's what we're paying for him to do."'" ... So that way, we didn't have to go downstairs. We made the bus."

Fellow  Boston Globe correspondent Bob Ryan credited Weaver with having a profound impact on Shaughnessy's career in a column written in advance of Shaughnessy receiving his award. 

Ryan wrote: "I have long had a theory about Dan Shaughnessy and baseball. I have always maintained that starting out his daily newspaper career by covering the Earl Weaver Baltimore Orioles was both the best and worst thing that ever happened to him. Earl Weaver was  sui generis, not just another baseball lifer, which he was, but a Runyon-esque, Raleighs chain-smoking, completely unfiltered (as in loudly profane) gnome of a cracker-barrel philosopher without parallel in the second half of 20th-century baseball. With a feisty, breezy manager in charge, the Orioles went about their daily business in an open manner that would have been absolutely unimaginable for a major control freak like, say, Bill Belichick. With those '70s Orioles, there were no secrets."

Shaughnessy's more-than-30-year career in journalism spans from the time of typewriter ribbons and Whiteout to modern-day digital media, and he waxed nostalgic about his early days with the Orioles in his speech.

"I was traveling and covering the Orioles at 23," he said. "What a time that was. I think I'd only been on an airplane twice. Suddenly, I got to go to Tiger Stadium, Comiskey Park, ancient American League cathedrals I'd only seen on black and white television. I carried a portable typewriter and filed my stories at the downtown Western Union office."

Shaughnessy also referenced the era in the Hall of Fame's Memories and Dreams magazine program, writing, "It was just so magical, to be traveling with the Orioles and working alongside Brooks Robinson, who had been in that [first] game in 1961 at Fenway Park. Earl Weaver was the manager and I loved them."

Shaughnessy mentioned his early days covering the Orioles frequently in his speech. 

"This makes [me] sound old. I remember the grand old hotel rooms in Cleveland and Milwaukee; they smelled like smoke. ... Earl hated the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. He thought it was bad luck. The Orioles had stayed there in '71, lost the World Series. In '79, they were in the World Series again, Pittsburgh again, William Penn again. Earl goes in to check at the desk to get his key, and the lady says,

'We've got a lovely room for you, Mr. Weaver,' and Earl says, 'There are no nice rooms in this hotel. This hotel is so old I think William Penn was named after the hotel.' 

"Thirty-nine years ago in a hotel elevator in Cleveland, my first road trip, the great Brooks Robinson asked me how old I was and told me how much fun I was going to have covering big league baseball. Brooks Robinson! How many hours of my youth had I spent pretending I  was him. Brooks was so right." 

Issue 224: August 2016