Claire Smith Wins First Annual Lacy-Smith Award
By Beth Mechum
Claire Smith Awarded First Annual Sam Lacy – Wendell Smith Award
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Long-time sports journalist Claire Smith has been named the first winner of the Sam Lacey-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.
About Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith
Lacy, who died in 2003 at the age of 99, worked for the Washington Tribune and Chicago Defender, before beginning a six-decade career for the Afro-American newspapers that were distributed in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. A graduate of Howard University, he won the J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1997 and the Red Smith Award presented by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 1998. He also is enshrined in the Maryland Media Hall of Fame.
Wendell Smith, a graduate of West Virginia State College, died in 1972 at the age of 58. He won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 1993 and co-authored with Robinson: “Jackie Robinson: My Own Story.” He had a storied career at the Pittsburgh Courier and later the Chicago American before becoming a sports commentator for WGN-TV in Chicago.
Both men worked and wrote with great passion in the late 1930’s and 1940’s trying to convince Major League Baseball to integrate, with Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers finally signing Robinson to a contract in 1945. Robinson played for Brooklyn’s Triple A team in Montreal in 1946 before breaking in with the Dodgers in 1947. That season was chronicled in the movie “42” with Smith depicted following Robinson’s path those two seasons. Wendell Smith’s widow, Wyonella, lives in Chicago.
About the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism:
The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland is a resource for journalists, academics and the public who want to explore the complex role of sports in society. The Center is led by its director, George Solomon, who was assistant managing editor for sports at the Washington Post from 1975-2003.
Beth Mechum, Coordinator of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism