SAN DIEGO -- For more than three decades covering the game he loved so much, the late Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe soaked in major events like the World Series, the All-Star Game and the Winter Meetings. But nothing gave Cafardo more joy than Hall of Fame Induction Weekend
SAN DIEGO -- For more than three decades covering the game he loved so much, the late Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe soaked in major events like the World Series, the All-Star Game and the Winter Meetings. But nothing gave Cafardo more joy than Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in the baseball paradise of Cooperstown, N.Y.
This July, Cafardo will be immortalized at the Hall of Fame as this year's recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, given annually to a sportswriter with "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."
As Cafardo -- who was selected on 243 of the 427 ballots cast by eligible BBWAA members -- was announced as the winner during a Tuesday morning meeting of baseball writers, the room erupted in applause for close to a minute.
Peter Abraham, who covered baseball at the Globe with Cafardo for nearly a decade, walked to the back of the room and embraced Ben Cafardo, Nick's son, who is the Communications Director for ESPN.
"It was special. It was a wonderful moment," said Ben Cafardo. "He loved being part of the baseball writers' community. To be acknowledged in that way by his peers who he had so much respect for was special to see."
Of course, the only bittersweet aspect of it is that Nick Cafardo -- who on Feb. 21 collapsed while visiting Spring Training on his scheduled off-day and died just hours later -- won't be present for his crowning moment in his favorite place.
It had become Cafardo's long-standing tradition to rent a house during Induction Weekend with his closest friends in the baseball-writing industry. Along with Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and others, Cafardo would have endless laughs with his friends for those couple of days in shared living quarters.
"Cooperstown is so special to Nick," said Boston Globe columnist and 2016 Spink Award winner Dan Shaughnessy. "That was his favorite thing of the calendar year, of the baseball year, was to go to Cooperstown in the summer. It was always understood that he covered that. Nobody else came near it. It was Nick's territory. To see him immortalized there, I just feel so great for his family and it's the right thing. Nick deserves it."
In an industry that by its very nature creates some adversarial relationships, Cafardo had virtually no enemies. His enthusiasm for baseball was part of his fabric. And perhaps that's what led Cafardo to become the dogged reporter he was, rarely ever missing a Red Sox game -- even when his bosses tried to give him a day off.
"He just was one of a kind," said Shaughnessy. "It's such a great honor. It was a hard year for all of us. It never got less emotional for us. It was just a tough thing. Feb. 21, that's branded into my head. I'll always remember that. I still can't believe he's gone. I'm really happy that this happened. It's the right thing. I'm really happy for his family."
Ben has a pretty good idea of how humbled his father would have been by the events of Tuesday.
"It would have meant the world to him and it does mean the world to him," said Ben Cafardo. "But like I said, he respected you all so much, the entire writers family. He loved being part of that. I'm sure he would have been a little bit shy being under the spotlight that way, but he would have been thrilled."
Nick Cafardo was 62 when he died. He is the first posthumous winner of the award since his Boston Globe colleague, Larry Whiteside, in 2008.
"I've talked to Ben about just how special this is," Shaughnessy said. "I don't think any family realizes it until it happens, but professionally this is as good as it ever gets for any of us. I just wish Nick were alive to enjoy it. It's a great honor for him to be on that wall with those guys. It's going to be great to see him up there."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.