In Defense of Dan Shaughnessy, Baseball Hall of Famer

Love him or hate him, you have to respect the Curly-Haired Boyfriend.

Illustration by Kyle Clauss

Illustration by Kyle Clauss

It’s May 14, 2014, and I’m gorging myself on the buffet set up for media types in the underbelly of TD Garden. There’s a palpable anxiety mixing with the resurfacer fumes. In a few moments, the Bruins will face their oldest rival, the Montreal Canadiens, in the final game of their best-of-seven series with an Eastern Conference Finals berth at stake.

Hockey media is inordinately cliquey, especially during these pregame meals, and even more so when the Canadian press is in town. It’s a scene from a high school cafeteria: the greying beat writers of traditional media at one table, a handful of bloggers at another. I was still new to the beat back then, so that often relegated me to eating with the Garden timekeeper or a TV reporter who got stuck in traffic on I-93 and couldn’t find a seat with his cameraman.

Fortunately, Steve Buckley of the Herald, one of the nicest guys in the business, invites me to sit with him. Not long after, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes the seat across from me. He’s feeding off that anxiety. “The Bruins win tonight. They have to, right? How could they not?” he says to everyone he encounters. On paper, sure; the Bruins ought to win, coming off a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season and a decisive series win over an injury-ravaged Detroit Red Wings. But this is Montreal. Handing the Bruins heartbreaking losses is sort of their thing. And the grander the stage, the better.

Yet that beautiful shit-stirrer, the Pride of Groton, Massachusetts, keeps going, building the Bruins up to be some unstoppable force, but never expressing much tangible belief in what he’s saying. “They have to win!” Before departing for the press box high above the ice, I introduce myself. “You know, Dan, the best compliment I’ve ever gotten about my writing was when I did a piece on Seguin and someone said, ‘This guy’s worse than Shaughnessy.'” He manages an uncomfortable chuckle.

Listen: I like Shaughnessy.

I do! Not in a normcore, ironic way, as one would feel about a pair of Birkenstocks. I have an earnest, straightforward admiration for the guy, who was named winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award on Tuesday, landing him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (Perhaps more importantly, Boston magazine named him one of the “82 Faces to Watch in ’82.” Also listed: now-imprisoned former House Speaker Sal DiMasi.)

I realize this places me in something of a minority in Boston. That’s just fine.