In the world of baseball journalism, Claire Smith is considered by her peers as a living legend. The Penn State and Temple University graduate will be enshrined this weekend in Cooperstown, New York as part of the Hall of Fame ceremonies, becoming the first woman to win baseball’s highest honor as a sportswriter.
Smith, 62, is a native of Langhorne, Pennsylvania. As a girl, her mother, a chemist, sparked her interest in baseball via tales of Jackie Robinson’s historic integration of the major leagues.
Over the years, Smith willed herself into the world of sportswriting, although she was denied advancement opportunities at several turns. In the early ’80’s, her break came when The Hartford Courant assigned her to cover the New York Yankees, making her the first African-American woman to do so.
Throughout the 90’s, Smith worked for The New York Times before moving to The Philadelphia Inquirer as an editor and columnist. Smith now works as an editor for ESPN’s baseball team.
The incredibly humble Smith is the first woman and only the fourth African-American writer to win the coveted J.G. Taylor Spink Award as its 68th recipient.
One of Smith’s toughest tests as a reporter eventually changed the face of baseball.
In 1984, after the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres, Padres officials physically removed Smith from the visitor’s clubhouse. Despite rules that guaranteed equal access to all journalists, each team could decide its own policy on clubhouse admittance. Padres star Steve Garvey gave Smith and interview, saving her story and solidifying her reputation.
Because of the incident with Smith, Peter Ueberroth, newly installed MLB commissioner at that time made it official MLB policy to allow equal access to reporters in all major league team locker rooms.
PHOTO: Baseball Hall of Fame, Fair Use
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