Longtime sports journalist Claire Smith has been named the first winner of the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The award is given to a sports journalist who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality in sports.
Claire Smith, a news editor at ESPN since 2007, has worked as a sportswriter and editor for more than 30 years at news organizations that include The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Bulletin and Hartford Courant.
The award was created to honor two pioneers in sports journalism — Lacy and Smith – African-American sportswriters who battled prejudice their entire careers and were instrumental in the integration of Major League Baseball in 1947 by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am honored to congratulate Claire Smith on being the recipient of the inaugural Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award from the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.
“Claire’s decorated career covering the national pastime continues to embody the pioneering spirit of Sam and Wendell, who opened doors with their talents, character and passion for chronicling our game. It is fitting that Claire, who has been a remarkable example for both her fellow journalists and those who aspire to report on baseball, will receive this wonderful recognition.”
Smith was chosen to receive the award by a committee that included Povich Center Director George Solomon, USA Today Sports Managing Editor Mary Byrne, Alicia Patterson Foundation Director Margaret Engel, Sporting News Editor Garry Howard, Merrill College professor Diana Huffman, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Sports Editor Greg Lee and ESPN-980 and Comcast SportsNet commentator Rick “Doc” Walker.
Smith will receive the award during a Nov. 5 luncheon at the University of Maryland. Comcast SportsNet anchor, Chick Hernandez, will be presented with a “Distinguished Terrapin” award as well. That night, the eighth annual Shirley Povich Symposium will discuss Maryland’s entry into the Big Ten in 2014.
“Claire Smith is a fine journalist who epitomizes the qualities of courage, determination and fairness displayed by both Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith during their exceptional careers,” said Povich Center Director George Solomon. “The Povich Center is proud to honor her, as well as Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith.”
The Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith award is the latest in a series of honors for Smith, who in the course of her career overcame many obstacles because of her race and gender.
A graduate of Temple University, she has previously won legacy awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as well as the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association for Women in Sports Media. She is the author of “Don Baylor: Nothing But The Truth, a Baseball Life” and is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, as were Lacy and Smith.