Pioneering sports journalist Claire Smith, who broke barriers by becoming the first female beat writer in Major League Baseball and the first woman to receive the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will receive the President’s Award at the 79th Gold Key Dinner, presented by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.
Smith worked for the Hartford Courant as beat writer for the New York Yankees from 1983 to 1987. During the 1984 National League playoffs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, she was physically removed from the San Diego Padres’ clubhouse following the opening game, despite a league rule requiring equal access to all properly accredited journalists. San Diego All-Star first baseman Steve Garvey left the clubhouse and granted Smith an interview; the following day, a new rule requiring equal access to all major league locker rooms was declared by MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Following her tenure at the Courant, Smith was a columnist for the New York Times from 1991 to 1998, then an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998 to 2007. The Ellington resident is currently a news editor for ESPN.
In 2017, Smith was presented the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, created by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1962 in honor of the late publisher of the Sporting News. Awarded in recognition of meritorious contributions to baseball, Smith became the first woman and fourth African-American to be accorded the baseball writers’ highest honor.
Gold Key Award recipients for 2020 are five legendary scholastic coaches: Cookie Bromage (Enfield field hockey), Joe Grippo (Morgan girls volleyball and girls basketball), Lou Milardo (Hale-Ray softball), Ricky Shook (Danbury wrestling) and Angela Tammaro (Greenwich Academy field hockey and lacrosse).
The Gold Key Dinner was inaugurated in 1940, with baseball legend Connie Mack and golf superstar Bobby Jones among the initial recipients. The roster of honorees since then reads like a Who’s Who of Connecticut sports – Joe Cronin, Julius Boros, Willie Pep, Andy Robustelli, Lindy Remigino, Floyd Little, Joan Joyce, Carmen Cozza, Otto Graham, Calvin Murphy, Gordie Howe, Bill Rodgers, Tony DiCicco, Geno Auriemma, Rebecca Lobo, Brian Leetch, Kristine Lilly, Marlon Starling, Dwight Freeney and ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen are just a few of the past Gold Key winners. A complete list is available at www.ctsportswriters.com.
The Gold Key Dinner is scheduled for Sunday, April 26, 2020 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Tickets are $75 apiece, and may be reserved by contacting CSWA President Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from the event benefit the Bo Kolinsky Memorial Sports Journalism Scholarship, named after a longtime Hartford Courant sportswriter and past CSWA president who died unexpectedly in 2003.
Photo credit: Milo Stewart/National Baseball Hall of Fame