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RIP, Mike Shalin, a man who taught me everything

It was 5 a.m. on Broadway. Hell, maybe 6 a.m. Even those in the oldest profession had called it a night. Or morning, in this case.

And there we were, two sportswriters in the big, bad city — me and the great Mike Shalin — during a Big East Tournament, talking to maybe a dozen femme fatales, eating pizza and discussing their line of work. Too bad there's not video.

You really couldn't help but talk to Mike Shalin. He could talk about anything. He was the personification of Johnny Cash's line about being everywhere, man. Covered the Yankees for the New York Post. He was Everyman at the Boston Herald. Wrote a book on Don Mattingly. Once the official scorer at Fenway Park. And he was my friend.

Mike died Friday. He was 65. He had brain cancer. Hard to find words.

Mike and I got to know each other when I was writing for the school newspaper in college and he was at the Boston Herald. Mike always treated me like a colleague, even when I was some snotty kid at BC who didn't know what he didn't know.

Our first encounter: a BC hockey game. It was 3-3 with about three minutes left before the referees called two penalties on Michigan. BC got a 5-on-3 and won the game. Mike asked me to run to the Michigan locker room to get quotes from Red Berenson, the coach.

Talk about growing up in a hurry. I was petrified. Red wasn't happy. But I think Mike was impressed I got Berenson to talk without swearing. That might have been the night I knew I could do this job.

Our professional paths crossed through college basketball. He was BC's beat writer for many years at the Herald. Al Skinner loved him.

Never forgot the night we were at the Big East women's tournament and Mike asked Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer an innocent enough question.

Some marriages don't last as long as Stringer's answer that, shall we say, meandered in figure eights for a while. That's when Mike said, "I asked Vivian Stringer a question and Casey Stengel answered."

Or this one from former BC media relations director Chris Cameron:

"RIP Mike Shalin, one of the funniest humans ever. Once at Notre Dame, notorious for cheering fans in the press box, a BC player scooped a fumble and scored. 'BC just took the press box out of the game,' he said. Gone too soon."

Mike became a staple at Connecticut Sun games as well. After his Herald days, Mike would try to make some extra money with various writing and stat gigs. He loved the pregame fare at Mohegan Sun.

I had no idea that the last time we saw each other — the last time the Sun played a home game summer before last — was the last time we'd ever see each other. Turns out Aerosmith had it right: "Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away."

If you are still reading this, thank you for reading this far. I want you to know my friend. More importantly, though, I want you to know the value of how you treat people. Even the ones who can't do anything for you. Mike Shalin treated everyone respectfully. From college kids breaking into the profession to working girls in the middle of New York City.

I guess Mike taught me that lesson without ever having to really teach it. Just by who he was.

Some days, as we know, are harder than others. It's made worse by a pandemic and more social isolation. I never got to see Mike when he was sick.

But I'll never look at New York City, Vivian Stringer, Notre Dame football or an official scorer getting hammered for his decision again without thinking of the great Mike Shalin.

I suspect he's up there in heaven with late BC women's basketball coach Cathy Inglese having a few laughs right about now. He was a good man. I'll miss him.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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