My friend, Claire Smith, is going into the Hall of Fame today.
Who is Claire Smith? She is someone that you should know about if you’re a young person, man or woman, who has aspirations of working in the business of covering sports on a professional basis. She is a pioneer, role model, a valued colleague and friend.
Claire Smith made it possible for women like Suzyn Waldman, Kim Jones and others to make their mark on the industry. She was an inspiration to men as well.
Smith will make history today when she becomes the first woman to enter the Baseball’s Hall of Fame as the winner of the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award. It’s an honor that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”
I first met Claire in the early 1980’s when I was beginning my own career. She became the first female beat reporter for a major publication when she was named to cover the Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1983. Smith had numerous obstacles to overcome but she wouldn’t let the ignorant and distorted views of others take away her dignity, her class and her professionalism. Eventually she began writing baseball for the New York Times and has been a respected journalist ever since.
I always admired Claire’s rapport with the players. She was friendly with most of them and they trusted her. It was easy to trust her, she was almost like your own sister.
That trust came to light during the 1984 National League Championship Series. Despite being credentialed as an accredited reporter, she was physically escorted out of the Padres locker room. Seeing the humiliation that Smith was unfairly put through, Padres first-baseman Steve Garvey had the decency to come out of the room, in his uniform, to help her write her story. The next day Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth declared the locker room should have equal access for all accredited reporters.
Claire made an impact on my career and for that, I am forever grateful. In a very short time on the beat, Claire was already one of the most respected reporters and one of the first to accept me as an equal. I was confident in myself but having her support provided some added impetus to continue to pursue my career.
My friend, Claire Smith, is going into the Hall of Fame today. I couldn’t be more pleased or proud.