Smith will join other top honorees, including The Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles, at NABJ's annual Salute to Excellence Awards Gala that recognizes journalism that best covered the black experience or addressed issues affecting the worldwide black community during 2010.
A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Smith has written about sports for more than 25 years, for the Philadelphia Bulletin, Hartford Courant, New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer. For more than 20 years, her beat was Major League Baseball. In July 2007, she joined ESPN as a news editor, working with the production teams on MLB game broadcasts.
She is the author of Don Baylor: Nothing But The Truth, a Baseball Life, an autobiography of a great baseball man.
Also of importance to Smith was former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent's invitation for her to take part in a groundbreaking oral history project to benefit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
“Claire Smith is one of our best and brightest, a true trailblazer befitting our annual Legacy Award, one of our organization’s highest honors," NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said in a statement announcing the award. "Claire has been a pioneer for women in sports journalism and her career in baseball is second to none. She is most deserving."
Smith often refers to her defining moment, which came in the 1984 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. She was physically removed by players from the Padres clubhouse after Game One. The situation was eventually resolved, thanks to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, but it left scars for a number of years.
Former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who once fought to keep women sports writers out of major league clubhouses, later called Smith “the best baseball writer in America.”
Smith overcame the obstacles placed in her way to become an inspiration to girls and women to pursue sports writing as a career, NABJ said.
“Claire Smith epitomizes the true meaning of this the award. She has created a legacy and is a pioneer covering Major League Baseball. She fought through sitting in a white-male-dominated press box with grace and dignity to tell the stories of America's favorite pastime,” said Gregory Lee, NABJ treasurer and chairman of the Sports Task Force. "NABJ and, in particular, the NABJ Sports Task Force, owes her a great debt for her work representing us.”
Smith also has been honored with the Sam Lacy Legacy Award by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and MLB.com.
Garry D. Howard, editor-in-chief of Sporting News, is another fan of her contributions to the field of sports journalism.
“Claire Smith epitomizes what a great sports reporter and editor should be,” Howard said. “She has been a role model in this business for me, personally, and so many others. She taught me patience and excellence and helped me understand that perseverance would be needed to reach any goal in the often difficult sports journalism field. I owe her so much for that sage guidance.”
For additional information, ticket sales or registering for the convention, visit www.nabj.org.