Today, Claire Smith will make history. She was the first female Major League Baseball beat writer. Now, she is the first woman — and fourth Black writer — voted into the writer's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame as the first female recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."
Smith began covering the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1983. She went on to work for the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is currently a coordinating editor at ESPN, where she has worked since 2007.
In an interview with Refinery29, Smith described what it was like to enter the male-dominated field of sportswriting. "It was heady, it was really kind of scary, but it was also what I wanted to do... it was exactly where I wanted to be," she says.
"To have it happen in New York City, the greatest city in the world, I didn't have to cut my teeth in a minor league city. I went right from wishing I could cover to baseball to covering baseball... It was a lightning bolt." She said that the first time she'd ever been in Yankee Stadium was when she walked in to cover her first game.
Reflecting on her legacy, Smith is quick to point out that she doesn't want to be remembered for one of the most infamous moments of her career — when she was not allowed in the locker room to interview players following Game 1 of the 1984 National League Championship Series. Instead, she wants to be remembered for how she's given back and influenced the next generation of women in sports media.
"It makes me very proud to have these young ladies come up [to me] and say that [I influenced them]. I hope that down the road they’ll turn around and see a long line of folks who followed them as well, and it's not the end or the middle, just a long line of giving back," she says. "That’s the legacy. It’s not ‘84."
Smith says that she didn't realize she was a trailblazer because she was too busy getting up and going to work every day. "It wasn't boring, but it wasn't dramatic," she says. "I’m sure glad I didn't screw it up because who knew that [so many] people were watching that closely."
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