Friday, June 14, 2024
Claire Smith honored with Red Smith journalism award.

Claire Smith honored with Red Smith journalism award.

LAS VEGAS — A Trailblazer in Sports Journalism

When Klein College of Media and Communications dean David Boardman was raising funds for the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media, he searched for donors who could make significant contributions. Smith, a notable alumnus of Temple journalism, had covered many influential people in sports, and they in turn contributed over a million dollars to the center. One outstanding transaction was a $500,000 check from MLB and its players’ union, given during contract negotiations. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s response to the proposal was, “You had me at Claire Smith,” according to Boardman.

Awarded the Highest Honor in the Industry

Claire Smith, a former Inquirer columnist, is a trailblazer in sports journalism, now educating young journalists at Temple. Recently, she received the prestigious Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award, considered the highest honor in the industry. Smith is the first Black woman, sixth woman, and fourth Black journalist to be honored with this award. She expressed her gratitude for the recognition, stating, “This, the Red Smith Award, that’s Mount Olympus-level stuff,” referring to the award named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Red Smith.

Recognizing Smith’s Achievements

Former Inquirer columnist Claire Smith accepts the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award from organization president Jorge Rojas on Tuesday in Las Vegas..Read more
Maria McIlwain

A Remarkable Journey in Sports Journalism

Smith, originally from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, started her career at the Bucks County Courier Times before moving on to the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. When the newspaper folded, she became the first woman to cover an MLB team full-time, reporting on the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1983.

Smith faced hostility in MLB clubhouses due to her gender and race. In 1984, after the San Diego Padres’ loss to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field, she was physically removed from the Padres’ clubhouse. However, she drew inspiration from her parents’ accomplishments. Her mother, Bernice, was a chemist at General Electric who played a crucial role in putting John Glenn into space. Her father, William, was the grandson of a slave and worked as a painter, sculptor, and in advertising.

Despite the challenges she faced, Smith acknowledged the privileges she had compared to others, stating, “I might have been pushed out of a locker room, but I was never thrown out of a store or threatened with cigarette burns because I dared to work at the naval yard to build ships to send into World War II.”

A Pioneering Career and Return to Teaching

After Hartford, Smith joined the New York Times in 1990 as a national baseball columnist, a position she held for eight years. From 1998 to 2007, she worked as a columnist and assistant sports editor at The Inquirer before her tenure at ESPN until 2021. Throughout her career, Smith was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice and received the BBWAA Career Excellence Award in 2017, making her the first woman to be honored with this accolade.

Currently, Smith serves as the founding executive director of the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media at Temple University, her alma mater. The center provides a platform for her students to produce impactful sports journalism, including collaborations such as “Playing Fields, Not Killing Fields” with The Inquirer.

Reflecting on her career, Smith hopes she has made a difference and inspired the next generation of sports journalists. “Did the colors I chose help change the canvas of this thing we call sports journalism? Did the palette I held in my hand for 40 years inspire a youngster here or there? I can only hope so,” she said.


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