You are here: / Education / Women Who Made History / Claire Smith

Claire Smith

African Sports Network Salute ESPN Claire Smith 

In commemoration of women day, the African Sports Network would like to salute all the women especially the valiant women in sports such as ESPN’s Claire Smith whom we encounter during the 2009 MLB World Series and in addition to her being honored by the Negro League Baseball Hall Of Fame last January, we are truly captivated by her professionalism which is reflected in this video.

clairesmithtransparent2Claire Smith …in her own words

My mother gave me the love of baseball. She was enamored with Jackie Robinson. It was a very momentous occasion. In 1947, she became an avid Dodgers fan, and passed that on to me. My dad was a fan of the Giants and Willie Mays. I listened to my mother more than I listened to my dad. I just love baseball.

It’s a great sport to write about, tell stories. It not only merges society, but it often leads society, as the breaking of the color barrier shows.

You integrate in ’47, and it takes the country 20 years to make it national law. It caught my attention. I wanted to learn about the people.

It’s a sport where you write about the people who happened to play, as oppose to writing about point spreads and X’s and O’s. It’s a sport that gives journalists probably more access than any other sport because they want to show the human face.

They want you to understand their errors, and to understand the human facet of the game.

You have to see the face of the pitcher who lost the no-hitter in the 9th inning with two outs. That’s what drives the sport. It’s the storytelling, and that’s what I love to do.

What I remember best about baseball growing up is that I used to tease my mom that she is out of my will because, when I was in elementary school, she got tickets to a doubleheader in Philadelphia: It was Jim Bunning and Chris Short against Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and she took my brother because he was a boy. I was just like ‘OK, mom, thanks a lot.’

I love the Dodgers because of Jackie Robinson. He’s my hero. I don’t know how to say it any simpler than that.

smithbwWhen I was in third grade, I attended St. James Elementary School, and the sisters gathered us up and took us into the basement where the church was and showed us a movie titled ‘The Jackie Robinson Story,’ starring the great, great Ruby Dee as Rae Robinson, and Jackie Robinson as Jackie Robinson. It’s not as bad as “The Babe Ruth Story”, but you know.

I just sat there as a third grader looking at these gorgeous men, knowing that it was really him. It wasn’t Gary Cooper, it wasn’t John Wayne playing Ted Williams; it was Jackie Robinson. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that is who my mother has always been telling me about.’ I just fell in love with him, and I never fell out of love with him.

The Dodgers always made it necessary to be a fan because if I wasn’t just falling in love with Jackie Robinson, it was Sandy Koufax. Like, wow, could you have more integrity than to walk away from the World Series rather than pitch on Yom Kippur? He was just drop-dead gorgeous and so good.

And then my boys came.

The Garvey era, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, just really good people. I was a really big fan, so I used to go down to Philadelphia, wait, and get autographs.

I got to know them, and they got to know me. To this day, we are still friends. It’s been over 40 years.

None of them disappointed me. I’ve heard horror stories about people growing up love a sport, and then meeting their childhood hero, and they turn out to be the devil’s spawn, drunks or racists. But, no one ever disappointed me. They were some of the best people I have dealt with in sports, even after their career.

hc-riley-column-0714-20130713-001I loved Dodger Stadium, the first time I saw it, and it took my breath away. It was all just so ideal. It was easy to be a Dodger fan. I never got to see Jackie play. He retired in 1957, rather than accept a trade to the Giants.

I never got to meet him, but I have become friends with (daughter) Sharon Robinson and (wife) Rachel Robinson. They are just beautiful ladies. His legacy is in such good hands with them. The first time I ever saw the home uniform was at the Pittsburgh All-Star Game in 1974. I sat with some friends of mine way in the upper deck, and I think four Dodgers walked out onto the field in their powder white uniforms, and I was just like, “Whoa, that’s so cool!” It was a wild time.

The first time I saw Dodger Stadium was in 1978. I flew myself out to see the playoffs against the Phillies. It was my first-ever work vacation, and that’s where I wanted to go. So I did.

I watched more than I played. I wasn’t very athletic, but my brothers were, so I liked to watch them.

I’m envious of the women today who grew up under Title IX. I remember just loving the game so much, that I used to have a transistor radio at my ear, while under the covers, trying to pick up stations.

I’m envious of the women today who grew up under Title IX. I remember just loving the game so much, that I used to have a transistor radio at my ear, while under the covers, trying to pick up stations.
I obviously couldn’t listen to Los Angeles, but that was my team. So, anytime they came east of the Mississippi, I would try to pick them up on the New York stations. I even listened to them in French coming from Montreal. Wherever they were, I tried to pick them up on the radio.

I could hear them in Cincinnati, I could hear them in Atlanta, obviously in New York, so I got to hear some of the legendary announcers. Jack Buck, Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, my friend.

So I listened, I taught myself how to keep score. I was also developing, unbeknownst to me I guess, somewhat of a writing skill. I could kill on a blue book when I got into college more easily then a multiple-choice test. I could write some of the best fiction in those blue books.

Povich_logo ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.