Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inductees headlined by Claire Smith and Mel Greenberg
The Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame held its 2018 induction ceremony Thursday headlined by Allen Iverson, Muffet McGraw, Jamie Moyer, Louis Santop, and Brian Westbrook.
There was an echoing message said and felt throughout the evening by many of the 2018 inductees into The Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame: There is nothing like being honored at home.
"To be brought back and to know this organization is honoring me for just being a tiny part of that tapestry is amazing to me," said noted sportswriter Claire Smith, who worked for the Inquirer for nine years. "It's hard to wrap your head around it."
The Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inducted another star-studded class, Thursday with names like Allen Iverson, Gavvy Cravath, Muffet McGraw, Brian Westbrook. There were 16 inductees in total.
"This is really special. My parents met here. My parents were born here," Smith said. "I grew up in just this hotbed of sports. Where not only the professional teams, but the college teams were all family, and interwoven with the people who support them. So you learned a lot about sportsmanship. You learned a lot about community and loyalty and what matters most.
Smith, a Neshaminy High School alum, was the first woman to cover a Major League Baseball beat when she reported on the Yankees and the Mets for The Hartford Courant. She went on to cover the Yankees for The New York Times and returned to Philadelphia a little less than a decade later when she became a columnist for the Inquirer.
Smith, who started her career at The Bulletin, says that it helped when she was working for local papers because she knew the area and the legacies of particular sports. To her, they were never-ending books. They never started a new book, it was always on to the next chapter.
"You see Vivian Stringer and you know that she is more than a Final Four coach who had Iowa and Rutgers in but she started at Cheyney State, but that's very helpful and you know that John Chaney a hall of fame coach but she started at Cheyney State so you're weaving in a knowledge of the social history and how everything is interlinked."
Mel Greenberg, a Northeast alum, wrote for the Inquirer for over 40 years beginning his career in 1969. He created the first college national women's basketball poll in 1976. The Associated Press would adopt that poll a few years later.
In 2007, he was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the first writer to receive the honor. He said the highlight of his time at the Inquirer was commonly being the story of the newsroom. What he was doing was often talked about.
"They put me at the end of the table and they start the clock before I even get up here and they don't want you to laugh or applause because they don't want any of you to get to the parties," said Greenberg as he began his acceptance speech. "What a joy to stand here tonight in this legacy of excellence category with you Claire, a true pioneer."
Greenberg began his career in journalism during his time at Temple when he was asked to chauffeur cheerleaders to sporting events. He dedicated his career to women's basketball in part because "their locker rooms smelt better" than the male locker rooms. He gave many shout-outs during his speech to female coaches that were instrumental in his success like Dawn Staley, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame 2011, and fellow inductee, Muffett McGraw.
For both, Greenberg and Smith, being able to cover sports and get honored with a bid into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame held a level of significance.
"My professional career started here. It's the circle," said Smith. "It's just complete."