COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It is of course apt that the man who popularized the phrase "Curse of the Bambino" would have a career colorized by the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. That career became the focus of the Hall of Fame's Awards Presentation on Saturday, when longtime Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy accepted the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers.
The Hall also honored late radio voice Graham McNamee with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters, with former winner Dick Enberg calling McNamee a "pioneer" of his field. And New York City Fire Department Battalion Chief Vin Mavaro shared his memories of baseball's role in helping the nation recover from the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Shaughnessy, who became the Globe's national baseball voice five years after rejoining the paper as a Celtics writer in 1981, is best-known for his work covering the Red Sox and their longstanding rivalry with the Yankees. At Saturday's awards ceremony, Baseball Writers' Association of America president Derrick Goold read snippets of Shaughnessy's column from the Oct. 28, 2004, version of the Globe, published hours after the Red Sox won the World Series.
"To me, it's just biblical," Shaughnessy said of the rivalry. "It's the greatest sports story ever told."
Born a Red Sox fan in Groton, Mass., Shaughnessy cut his teeth as an assistant at the Globe before moving on to full-time jobs at the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Washington Star. He returned in 1981 to Boston, where he wrote each of his 10 books, including former Red Sox and current Indians manager Terry Francona's bestselling memoir.
Perhaps Shaughnessy's best-known book is "Curse of the Bambino," which popularized its title phrase upon initial publication in 1990. The idea sprung from an editor friend, Shaughnessy said, whose grandfather used the phrase in reference to the Red Sox' "dark history" following their sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
Red Sox fans latched onto it, and in turn to Shaughnessy. His columns offered them a living history of a simmering rivalry, which reached its tipping point in 2003 and '04.
"Shaughnessy became a conduit between the team and Red Sox Nation," Goold said. "His prose became the history of the Sox. For New Englanders, Dan Shaughnessy has always been synonymous with Boston baseball."
"I know what it is to live and die with the daily fortunes of the local team," Shaughnessy said. "It is the passion of the fans that makes the whole thing go."
Looking back, Shaughnessy said, the height of the rivalry was "good for business" and "good for all of us" -- "us" meaning the legions of writers on hand Saturday to honor him. They weren't the only ones. As Shaughnessy delivered his acceptance speech at Doubleday Field, nearly four dozen living Hall of Famers sat behind him listening, including several that he covered with the Red Sox -- Dennis Eckersley, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and Pedro Martinez among them.
For one hour, their roles reversed as the writer became the story.
"The greatest part of this award is that it exists," Shaughnessy said, pointing to the media assembled before him. "I'm supposed to be out there. This is just the greatest honor any writer could ever have."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.