Claire Smith honored during baseball Hall of Fame weekend

The 1979 alumna became the first woman and fourth African-American writer to win the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

The day before three new members earned enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of the writers who documented their careers earned her own recognition.

Claire Smith, a 1979 Temple alumna, gave a speech during baseball’s Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York after being presented the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

Smith is the first woman and fourth African American to win the award. The distinction is given to baseball writers based on their contributions to the profession and is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Smith was announced as the award winner in December.

Smith became the first female full-time baseball beat writer in 1982 when the Hartford Courant hired her to cover the New York Yankees.

Susan Slusser served as the first female president of the BBWAA from 2012-13.

“I couldn’t do my job without her and the other women from her generation who were the first to cover baseball,” Slusser, who has been the San Francisco Chronicle’s Oakland A’s beat writer since 1999, told The Temple News in February.

During the 1984 National League Championship Series, the San Diego Padres’ no-women-in-the-clubhouse policy prevented Smith from entering the locker room to get quotes. First baseman Steve Garvey left the clubhouse to be interviewed by Smith, and clubhouse policy was shifted from team control to league control later that week to allow all credentialed reporters in the clubhouse.

Smith has been the coordinating editor of baseball at ESPN since 2007. She worked as a sports columnist at the Inquirer from 1998-2007 after covering baseball nationwide for the New York Times.

Temple honored Smith in 2014 with a Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award.

“The way she carries herself, it’s not easy when you’re in such a competitive business,” MLB Network insider and FoxSports writer Ken Rosenthal told The Temple News.

“She worked in the New York market and the Philadelphia market which are among the most competitive markets and that is a challenge to really stay classy because things happen,” he added. “Yet no one that I know of says a bad word about Claire, everyone holds her in the highest esteem.”

Tessa Sayers contributed reporting.

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