A Momentous Day for the Fraternity of Female Sportswriters

Claire Smith is the first woman to win an honor named after an editor of The Sporting News.

The Baseball Hall of Fame first started handing out the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing in 1962. When the next one is presented, in late July of next year, it will mark the first time the prize is presented to a woman: Claire Smith, 62, currently ESPN’s news editor of remote productions.

Smith was the first female sportswriter to extensively cover a Major League Baseball team beat, in the 1980s, for the Hartford Courant. From today’s report by the Associated Press:

Smith was given a standing ovation when her election was announced Tuesday at a Baseball Writers’ Association of America meeting, and she asked the other half dozen women in the room to stand alongside her as she spoke.

Her voice quavering, Smith thanked “the guys that stood up to the athletes and teams and said that we are your peers and we deserve to be treated like you.”

“I want to thank you as well as the women who walked the walk and fought the battles and got all of us to this point,” she said. “No one does this by themselves.”

Smith also wrote during her career for The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer. She beat out on the ballot former Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Jim Reeves and broadcaster Juan Vene.

A few years ago, the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism undertook an update of sorts of Jerome Holtzman’s seminal book No Cheering in the Press Box. One of the people interviewed for the project was Smith. From her essay:

The Philadelphia Bulletin was the best journalism school I ever attended. I worked with the likes of Bob Wright, Jim Barniak, Richie Ashburn. I got to edit Richie’s copy. It was great.

I started out on the news side as a news editor, and then I received an offer to become a high school sports writer at Newsday in Long Island. I accepted because this was my dream.

I went to talk to my editor at the Bulletin to notify him, and he said ‘You’re not even going to give a us chance?’ So, I said, ‘Well, it’s sports; it’s what I want to do.’ He replied, ‘OK, well let me see what I can do.’ Within a week, I was news editing in sports with a promise of writing soon to come. And it did.

Screen grab via: baseballhall.org