Thursday, July 19, 2018

Claire Smith’s meaningful baseball breakthrough.

July 26, 2017 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( This weekend will be an important one in baseball. Former baseball greats Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Iván Rodríguez, along with former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and longtime front office executive Bud Selig will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Two other important contributors, Bill King and Claire Smith, to the game of baseball will also receive awards this weekend. King, who passed away in 2005, will be recognized as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting. Claire Smith will also be presented with an important award, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers. Smith’s award is particularly notable because she is a black woman.

The world of sports journalism, like many careers in sports, is male dominated. Approximately, 90 percent of sports editors are white and 90 percent are male. Claire Smith has been a sports journalist for over three decades and covered the New York Yankees for five years during the early 1980s. The demands of being a beat writer for a Major League Baseball team are demanding on numerous levels, including creatively, physically, and emotionally as the Major League Baseball season is the longest of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.

Smith had to deal with those demands as well as the challenges of being a black woman in a sport that was predominantly white at the time and remains mostly white despite the influx of Latin America talent. During the 1984 National League Championship Series, she was physically removed from the clubhouse by some San Diego Padres players who had a problem with a female reporter being in the clubhouse. Yet Smith was not deterred from having a very successful career. When Claire Smith was covering the Yankees during the 1980s, she was also making history as one of the first women to cover a major league baseball beat extensively.

Claire Smith has been a prominent sports writer for a number of nationally recognized newspapers as well. She was a columnist with the New York Times from 1991-98 and as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998-2007. The former Temple University graduate is a true trail blazer whose writing has led to numerous awards. She has been a nominee of the coveted Pulitzer Prize twice and won three New York Times Publishers’ Awards.

In 2013, she named the inaugural winner of the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The award is given to a sports journalist who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality in sports. Claire Smith has earned awards in seemingly every decade since she began as a journalist in winning the Sports Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1997, the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association of Women in Sports Media in 2000 and the Sam Lacy Award at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 2010.

Today, the legacy that Claire Smith continues to build is through her work at ESPN. She is coordinating editor for ESPN’s universal news group, with an emphasis on baseball. She is now heading into Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the 68th winner, the first female winner, and the first black female winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award because of her “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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