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Pioneering sports journalist Claire Smith to receive President’s Award from CSWA

Pioneering sports journalist Claire Smith will be honored with the President’s Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance at the 2020 Gold Key banquet. (Milo Stewart photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

The Gold Key banquet will be April 26, 2020 in Southington. Five championship coaches will receive Gold Key honors at the annual dinner — 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).

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.

Steve Garvey, San Diego’s All-Star first baseman, found out that Smith had been ejected from the clubhouse. He 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 from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Created by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1962 in honor of the late publisher of the Sporting News, the Spink Award is presented in recognition of meritorious contributions to baseball. Smith became the first woman and fourth African-American to be accorded the highest honor for a baseball writer.

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 – Willie Pep, Andy Robustelli, Lindy Remigino, Floyd Little, Joan Joyce, Gordie Howe, Bill Rodgers, Geno Auriemma, Rebecca Lobo, Kristine Lilly, Marlon Starling and Dwight Freeney are just a few of the past Gold Key winners.

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 tim.jensen@patch.com. 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.

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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