Trailblazer to be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown
By Barry M. Bloom
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Claire Smith became the first female recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, she received a standing ovation by the group of writers that had just elected her.
An emotional Smith, whose career in newspapers and electronic media dates back to the 1970s, was asked if she wanted to say a few words to the writers who elected her with 272 votes on the 449 ballots cast.
With that, she asked the female scribes attending the annual BBWAA gathering at the Winter Meetings to join her at the front of the room. That group of six included MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, Alyson Footer and Jenifer Langosch.
"She was thanking us for helping her," Footer said about Smith, who is now a researcher and writer for ESPN. "But I told her, 'You did all the work, blazing the trail.' She's a tremendous reporter. This was a well-deserved honor because of her accomplishments, her career. It also comes along with she's the first woman, she's African-American; those are two big exclusionary issues. We take for granted a little bit of how it is for us now."
"Claire is one of the nicest people and one of the most professional people that I've had the pleasure of working with," Muskat added. "I could not be happier."
Smith also thanked her male colleagues, from whom she said she always felt support.
"I want you all to do something for me and look at this room at our brothers in arms," Smith said to the women behind her. "Over the four decades that I covered, I'd name all of you who touched my life. But these are the guys who stood up ... and said we are your peers."
Smith will be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., and she is slated to give her acceptance speech on July 29 at Doubleday Field along with the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting, which will be announced on Wednesday.
The eight finalists this year for that award are Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Bill King, Mike Krukow, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.
The induction is slated for July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center. Former Commissioner Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz were elected by the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, and they will receive their plaques along with any players selected from the ballot sent to eligible BBWAA members last month.