Dan Shaughnessy Looks Forward to Sweetser Lecture

25Apr14

Boston Globe Sports Columnist Speaks in Wakefield Tuesday, April 29

dan_shaughnessy2His book, Francona: the Red Sox Years just came out in paperback, but Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy plans to talk about the Red Sox and the whole range of Boston sports when comes to Wakefield next Tuesday, April 29 to deliver the second Sweetser Lecture of the 2014 series.

Shaughnessy is also the author of several other best-selling books about the Boston Red Sox, including Curse of the Bambino and Reversing the Curse. In a phone interview, he offered a preview of next week’s talk.

“I covered all eight years that Francona was here,” Shaughnessy said. But the columnist is also the first to admit that he and the former Red Sox manager weren’t always on the best of terms.

francona“It’s by nature an adversarial role,” Shaughnessy says, “myself being a wise guy.” He recalled occasions when something he had written would prompt Francona to call him to “clarify” things, or more accurately, “take me to the woodshed.”

So how did it come about that when Terry Francona wanted to write a book about his Red Sox years, Shaughnessy was his choice as a co-author?

“I always felt that we would have gotten along great if you took away the columnist/manager roles,” Shaughnessy says. “And I think he saw me as someone who could get his story out in a widespread and effective manner.”

How much of the blame does Shaughnessy think that Francona bears for the disastrous 2011 season and a perceived lack of team discipline that came to be symbolized by beer and fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse.

“Everybody shares in it,” Shaughnessy says. “Francona by his own admission felt that he had lost the players attention. It wasn’t a close-knit cast of characters at the end. Things had run their course.”

Mound ConferenceAt the end of the 2013 baseball season, some were surprised when world champion Red Sox manager John Farrell was beaten out for American League Manager of the year by now Cleveland Indians manager Francona. But Shaughnessy was not surprised.

“I would have voted for Francona too,” he says, pointing out that the votes are tallied at the end of the regular season, so Farrell’s post-season success with the Red Sox wasn’t a factor.

Shaughnessy points out the Farrell had a top-five payroll to work with, while Francona succeeded with an Indians payroll that ranked in the bottom 50 percent of major league baseball teams.

Still, Shaughnessy admits, “You could make a worthy case for either guy.”

Asked if he thinks Red Sox ace left-handed pitcher Jon Lester will be with the team next year, Shaughnessy was not optimistic.

Fenway Park infield“I’d say he goes,” Shaughnessy says of Lester, whose Red Sox contract is up at the end of this season. “I don’t like the tone of what I’m hearing.”

He was also a little surprised by the low Red Sox opening offer to Lester.

“We all understand that the offer is a giant bag of money and represents a lifetime of security for the Lester family,” Shaughnessy says. “But it’s not competitive. There’s nothing wrong with starting low. I’m just surprised that it was where it was.”

As to his own career, Shaughnessy says that he had a passion for sports from a young age.

“I grew up in central Massachusetts in Groton,” Shaughnessy says. “All my older siblings were athletes and I was a varsity athlete in high school. I didn’t play a ton but I loved being around it.”

When he got to college at Holy Cross, Shaughnessy says he realized that he wasn’t good enough to play sports at that level.

“But I had a passion for writing about sports,” Shaughnessy recalls, “and as a sophomore I made a connection with the Globe and I always stayed connected.”

Shaughnessy got his start at the Globe just as legendary sportswriters Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan and Will McDonough were entering their primes.

“Those guys were great to me,” Shaughnessy says, but he holds one sportswriter in special esteem. “Ray Fitzgerald was my all-time idol,” Shaughnessy says.

Dan Shaughnessy will be the featured Sweetser Lecture speaker on Tuesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. The talk will take place at the Savings Bank Theater at Wakefield High School, 60 Farm St. Wakefield, MA. Tickets are $10 and are available at Smith’s Drug Store, 390 Main St., Wakefield Center, or by mailing a check to 13 Rosemary Ave., Wakefield, MA 01880. Phone 781-245-7231.

[This story originally appeared in the April 25, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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