The Baseball Writers Association of America decided to take the name J.G. Taylor Spink off its award given to writers and broadcasters.
Spink held hardline segregationist and racist views that he frequently espoused in the pages of The Sporting News, which he founded in 1914. In the days before the internet and TV, The Sporting News had an oversized impact on baseball fans for decades.
Kevin Fagan of TSN detailed Spink’s long history of racism and his role in keeping the game segregated.
Winners of the Spink Award are commonly referred to as Hall of Famers. One of those is Claire Smith, the first woman to win the award. Smith covered baseball for the Hartford Courant, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Fagan quotes Smith in his story:
“My hope is this will be the era when we shed enough light on the subject of race and the influence of media, of sports, of politics and all, that we can shed enough light to reveal what we’ve hidden away in shadows but have always known was there.
The BBWAA should rename it the Claire Smith Award.
“She started to change how baseball was covered because she treated the players as people, real people,” said John Quinn, formerly sports editor of the Asbury Park Press and Philadelphia Inquirer. “The Times had the business end and the people’s end markets cornered. Rest of New York was tabloid, Steinbrenner, Reggie, etc.
Meanwhile, Claire was cultivating relationships like no other. They all respected her. She had direct relationships with Hall of Famers, ground breakers.”
“She was a pioneer for her female (journalists). She broke down barriers. She made people — editors — rethink the job.
You took her for granted because she did things so seamlessly. She’d talk to Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer on the phone, then turn to you in the same voice, in stride. Remarkable.”
Quinn’s idea is long overdue. Your move, BBWAA.