Hello, Cooperstown: ESPN’s Claire Smith wins top honor for a baseball writer

I am overwhelmed, I am humbled. For every woman who came before me and who stood by my side today. They are my champions. They are my sisters. And the men, who stood up in that room today and applauded. They are my champions, too.
– ESPN’s Claire Smith on her J.G. Taylor Spink Award

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — ESPN news editor Claire Smith made history today by becoming the first female recipient of the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award – the top honor for a baseball journalist – in a ceremony held here at the Baseball Winter Meetings. She received a standing ovation from her peers.

“There are so many women who could have been chosen, so many women who broke barriers,” Smith said. “I am overwhelmed, I am humbled. For every woman who came before me and who stood by my side today. They are my champions. They are my sisters. And the men, who stood up in that room today and applauded. They are my champions, too.”

Smith will be honored in Cooperstown, N.Y., during the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend, July 28-31. She will be recognized in a wing of the Hall of Fame.

“Every day of her trailblazing career, Claire Smith has graced her colleagues, the subjects of her stories and fans of the great game of baseball with her humility, her humanity and her courage,” said Senior Vice President, SportsCenter & News, Rob King. “So this honor is richly deserved.”

Smith was nominated for the award, based on balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), by ESPN colleague Marly Rivera and USA Today’s national baseball writer Bob Nightengale.

In Rivera’s nomination speech, she said: “Claire Smith was the first woman to extensively cover a Major League Baseball beat, let alone as a woman of color. She is a pioneer who opened the clubhouse doors for every woman of the BBWAA. She is the reason why I am here standing in front of you today.”

Smith spent 32 years in the newspaper industry, working as a sportswriter and editor at The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Bulletin and Hartford Courant before joining ESPN’s Remote News and Cross Platform departments in 2007. Smith, who attended Temple University, is a coordinating editor for ESPN’s universal news group, with an emphasis on baseball.

During the ceremony in a ballroom of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Smith called six other female BBWAA members in the room Tuesday to stand with her, New York Daily News‘ Mets beat writer Kristie Ackert wrote.

Smith’s name was trending on Twitter:

Claire Smith
Claire Smith

Several of Smith’s ESPN colleagues, as well as her media peers, took to social media today to congratulate the legendary journalist. Above, Hannah Storm offered her thoughts during this morning’s SportsCenter Face to Face. Here is a sampling of social reaction: