The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) announced at its spring Board of Directors meeting that pioneering sports journalist Claire Smith will receive its Legacy Award. Smith will be recognized at NABJ’s 36th Annual Convention and Career Fair this August in Philadelphia.
A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Smith has written about sports for over 25 years, for the Philadelphia Bulletin, Hartford Courant, New York Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer. For over 20 years, her beat was Major League Baseball.
In July 2007, though, the newspaper veteran started in a new direction and joined ESPN as a news editor, working with the production teams on MLB game broadcasts.
Smith is the author of “Don Baylor: Nothing But The Truth, a Baseball Life,” an autobiography of a great baseball man. Also of tremendous importance to Smith was former commissioner Fay Vincent’s invitation to participate in a groundbreaking oral history project to benefit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
“Claire Smith is one of our best and brightest, a true trailblazer befitting of our annual Legacy Award, one of our organizations highest honors,” said NABJ President Kathy Y. Times. “Claire has been a pioneer for women in sports journalism, and her career in baseball is second to none. She is most deserving.”
Smith often refers to her defining moment, which came in the 1984 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. She was physically removed by players from the Padres clubhouse after Game One. While the situation was eventually resolved, thanks to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, it left scars for a number of years.
Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn, who once fought to keep women sports writers out of major league clubhouses, later called Smith, “the best baseball writer in America.”
“Claire Smith epitomizes the true meaning of this the award. She has created a legacy and is a pioneer covering Major League Baseball. She fought through sitting in a white male-dominated press box with grace and dignity to tell the stories of America’s favorite pastime,” said NABJ Treasurer and Sports Task Force Chair, Gregory Lee.