Saturday in Cooperstown, N.Y., the late Nick Cafardo takes his rightful place on the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum wall next to the likes of Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Damon Runyon. He’ll be on the same wall with Peter Gammons and the late Larry Whiteside, Globe teammates who welcomed Nick to our baseball coverage when we got him from the Patriot Ledger in 1989.
Nick died suddenly outside the Red Sox clubhouse at spring training in 2019 and later that year won a landslide election in which more than 420 baseball writers cast ballots for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Career Excellence Award.
“This recognition from his peers in the BBWAA would be a tremendous source of pride for my dad,” said Ben Cafardo, an ESPN communications strategist who will deliver Nick’s acceptance speech. “It’s a remarkable accomplishment and our family is eager to celebrate his life and legacy at the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Nick, who grew up in a Hanson household where Italian was the first language, will be recognized in Cooperstown along with 2021 Career Excellence Award winner Dick Kaegel, and Ford C. Frick Award recipients Ken Harrelson (2020) and Al Michaels (2021). Longtime Phillies executive David Montgomery, who also passed away in 2019, will be honored with the 2020 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Writing about baseball is all my dad ever wanted to do since he learned how to speak and write English in middle school,” said Ben Cafardo. “He loved the romance of the game, the way it connected generations and mirrored so many crucial periods in American history. He loved the ebb and flow of a baseball season, and even the daily grind.
“He may have created the phrase, ‘No days off.’ He certainly embraced it. He felt a deep sense of obligation to be there for the reader every day, documenting games, breaking news, and telling the story of the Boston Red Sox.”
The awards presentation usually takes place at Doubleday Field on the Hall’s induction weekend, one day before new Hall of Fame ballplayers and executives are enshrined at the Clark Sports Center. Both Hall ceremonies were canceled last year because of the pandemic, and Saturday’s event will take place at the opera house in Cooperstown, with only family and friends in attendance. It will be televised on MLB Network before Sunday’s game broadcasts.
The Cooperstown class of 2020 — Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons, Larry Walker, and union leader Marvin Miller — will be formally inducted on Sept. 8 in Cooperstown. No players were elected to the Hall in 2021 voting.
Our guy Nick loved baseball more than anyone and had a fondness for Cooperstown. He made a pilgrimage to the Hall for every induction, staying at a quaint 19th-century house with baseball scribes Bob Nightengale (USA Today), Kevin Kernan (New York Post), Scott Miller (freelance MLB columnist), and Red Sox special assistant Gary Hughes. Nick slept on a tiny bed in the home’s smallest room. He liked to get up early every morning on induction weekend, then go out to pick up coffee and doughnuts for his baseball brethren.
“Of all the places he traveled and events he attended, his annual Cooperstown trip is the one he cherished most,” remembered Ben Cafardo. “He often waxed poetic about his trip, crashing with fellow writers and close friends. He was there to cover the event, but he most appreciated the opportunity to discuss the Hall of Fame, partaking in the debate over which players should be included. The weekend was basically a dream come true for him.”
Baseball and family were the two great loves of Nick’s life. Globe teammates were Cafardo’s spring training family on that horrible Thursday in February 2019 when Nick died on the job.
It was before the start of the Grapefruit League games and Nick had a scheduled day off. He still went to the ballpark, naturally, and was standing outside the Sox clubhouse when his great heart gave way. Colleague Stan Grossfeld accompanied Nick to the local hospital, but Nick could not be saved. Tributes poured in from around the country for the rest of the day, indeed the rest of the season. Colleague Peter Abraham — Nick’s spring training roommate every year — had the sad chore of packing up Nick’s stuff and shipping it to Boston.
The Red Sox placed a dozen roses at Nick’s press box seat the next morning, and throughout the 2019 Red Sox season, in big league ballparks across America, Abraham worked next to floral tributes and empty chairs reserved for Nick. No one in our business was loved more than Nick Cafardo.
You readers loved him, too. We still regularly hear from Globe subscribers who miss Nick’s caring and informative voice on these pages.
Now he’s in Cooperstown where he belongs. Safe at home.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.