COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism announces the creation of The Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award to be presented annually in conjunction with the Shirley Povich Symposium to a sports journalist or broadcaster who has made significant contributions to racial and gender equality in sports.
“Major League Baseball applauds the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism for bestowing the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award in honor of media members who advance racial and gender equality in sports,” said Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “Wendell and Sam helped to tell the proudest and most powerful story in baseball history, and they chronicled the game’s emergence into the true national pastime with their insight, courage and vision.
“They illustrated the events of an era that was essential to not only the future of our game, but the benefit of our society as a whole. Their example remains inspirational to aspiring journalists. The legacies of Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith will continue to shine through the recipients of this tremendous honor, and on behalf of Major League Baseball, I commend the effort to highlight their invaluable contributions to the game they loved.”
“All someone has to do to see how important Pittsburgh Courier sportswriter Wendell Smith was to Jackie Robinson integrating Major League Baseball is to see the movie, ’42′,” said Povich Center Director George Solomon. “And Baltimore Afro American columnist Sam Lacy was just as important. Both men worked tirelessly over the years–writing, lobbying and cajoling MLB’s owners, many of them resistant, into trying to see the importance of integration to the future of not only the sport of baseball but to the country.”
The winner will be chosen by a committee comprised of Mary Byrne (sports managing editor, USA Today), Engel, Garry Howard (editor, The Sporting News), Diana Huffman (Baltimore Sun distinguished lecturer, Merrill College), Greg Lee (sports editor of the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel and president of the National Association of Sports Journalists), George Solomon (director, Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism) and Rick “Doc” Walker (commentator, ESPN-980, Comcast SportsNet). Kevin Blackistone (visiting professor, Merrill College and commentator, ESPN’s “Around the Horn”) will work with the committee, but refrain from voting.
“For the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism to annually cite a current journalist whose values and determination in seeking justice and equality in sports honors these two great journalists,” said the Povich Center’s Solomon. “Hopefully, more journalists and broadcasters will follow in their footsteps, and students will come to understand more fully what these men accomplished.”
About Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith
Sam Lacy was an African-American and Native American sportswriter who was a reporter, columnist, editor and TV/Radio host. He worked for the Washington Tribune, the Chicago Defender and the Baltimore Afro-American where he wrote about baseball’s need for integration and Jackie Robinson‘s ascent to the Major Leagues. He was the first African American member of the Baseball Writers of America Association. He won the Red Smith Award for contributions to sports journalism in 1998. Lacy died in 2003 at the age of 99.
Wendell Smith was an African-American sportswriter who covered the Negro leagues for many African-American newspapers and boxing for the Chicago Tribune. He was also a TV sports anchor in Chicago and sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Smith was a chronicler of Jackie Robinson for the Pittsburgh Courier and is credited with encouraging Branch Rickey to give Robinson an opportunity to play in the major leagues. Smith died in 1972 at the age of 58.