On Saturday, November 24, as people near and far digested yet another turkey sandwich, the Mattapoisett Public Library hosted a Purrington Lecture Series event featuring the well-known Boston Globesports columnist, Dan Shaughnessy.
Shaughnessy was introduced by his sister, Anne Martin, a longtime Mattapoisett resident, whose remembrances of her brother included his passion for baseball.
“Dan would make up his own rules and teams,” said Martin, as he played solo in the backyard. She credits that passion and an overall interest in all things sports for helping him find his voice, one that he has used to inform and entertain his readers since 1981. Martin said with pride that Shaughnessy had received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, then invited him to the lectern to rousing applause.
Shaughnessy’s sense of humor was on full display as he explained how the following hour would unfold – no PowerPoint presentation, no canned lecture. Instead it was an extemporaneous, witty, clever slide through New England sports followed by questions from the full house audience.
Shaughnessy began by saying that this time of the year was especially important and stressful for school age kids trying out for a place on winter sports teams. He noted his own efforts at securing a varsity position in the shadow of his sister, nodding in Anne’s direction, who was the better athlete.
His editor had suggested he write a piece of fiction for the growing young adult audience, which inspired him to ponder one that featured a young girl who hid away at Fenway Park and lived for a season in a luxury box.
“It is the ultimate way to watch a game,” said Shaughnessy. “There’s food, beverages, and a private bathroom!”
Alas, his book idea never scaled the Green Monster, but he has written six well-received books, including one with former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona that became a best seller, Francona: The Red Sox Years.
Fresh from reporting on the Red Sox World Series win, Shaughnessy said the 11 championship titles Boston teams have earned in this century kind of made up for the 86 years that preceded, although, he pointed out, “The Celtics used to win every year.”
“I’ve been to eleven Duck Boat parades. … If you’re a sports writer and live in this century, people are eating it up,” Shaughnessy said. “You are being well read.”
Joking about that 18-inning, coma-inducing third game of the 2018 World Series, Shaughnessy asked for a show of hands from those who survived the seven-hour and 20-minute game. About five hands valiantly were raised. Shaughnessy joked that the folks out on the west coast were commenting on the lateness of the hour, but he knew that the folks back in Boston were staring down a clock that read 3:00 am.
When asked which Red Sox team was better – the 2004 or 2018 – Shaughnessy didn’t hesitate.
“[It was] 2004,” he replied. “There were five starters all in their prime.” He added that he holds John Henry in very high regard. “Especially since he now owns theGlobe,” a comment that elicited a hearty round of laughter.
Of Manny Ramirez, Shaughnessy called him a beautiful hitter whose hitting philosophy was, “I see the ball: I hit the ball.” More laughter.
Back to the 2018 Red Sox win, when asked his thoughts about Alex Cora not receiving Manager of the Year, he said, “Alex took the team from first place to first place … with the most expensive team in the league.”
And what about that mystery man in the NFL, Ernie Adams, and his intriguing behind-the-scenes coaching of the coach – Belichick that is –Shaughnessy replied, “He makes big decisions, a genius, a very unusual guy: he wouldn’t talk to me.” He said that no one in the game seems to know what Adams does, but that “he’s responsible for a lot.”
As for the NBA in terms of the game now being one of 3-point shots exclusively, he said, “It’s a different game now. We are baying at the moon. This is the way it’s going to go.” He said that this type of scoring strategy saved wear and tear on the players, albeit not the game most grew up with.
When asked how he gained access to players and management, Shaughnessy said it’s hard to do, but added, “If you’ve been around long enough …” Shaughnessy smiled. He said that he didn’t have any inside sources, and that he wrote what he knew. “It’s established we are not friends.” He continued, “Pedro hated me, but now we’re pretty good.” Shaughnessy’s fully engaged audience chuckled along with him.
As the hour grew to a close, Shaughnessy was asked if sports and players are too heavily emphasized.
“Hey, movie stars are compensated. … This is a country with a lot of leisure time.” He said he wished that the people teaching our children were as handsomely paid, but that’s life in 20th century sports.
After the talk, all were invited to attend a reception on the first floor where refreshments and more sports-talk, along with laughter, were enjoyed.
By Marilou Newell