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Temple announces plans for the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media

The pioneering sportswriter with Philadelphia roots will help lead a new sports media center, the school announced.

Claire Smith was the first woman to win the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
Claire Smith was the first woman to win the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.Read moreALEX BRANDON / AP

A pioneering sportswriter with Philadelphia roots will help lead a new sports media center at Temple University, the school announced Wednesday.

Claire Smith, a Temple graduate and the first woman to be honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will join the faculty at the Klein College of Media and Communication and serve as co-director of the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media.

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The university is about two-thirds of the way to raising $1 million to establish and name the center, which has a stated vision of teaching, professional training, and research in sports journalism, broadcasting, advertising, public relations, production, and social influence.

Longtime former 76ers announcer Marc Zumoff, also a Temple graduate, will join the Klein College as associate director of the newly created center.

“The Claire Smith Center will prepare Temple students for the fast-changing world of sports media, giving them a solid foundation in the values personified by Claire: ethics, integrity, and excellence,” David Boardman, dean of the Klein College, said in a statement.

A Langhorne native and Neshaminy High graduate, Smith studied journalism during her time at Temple. She worked for the Bucks County Courier and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin before eventually becoming the first woman to get a full-time assignment to a baseball beat when she began covering the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1982.

Smith started as the New York Times’ national baseball writer in 1990, returned home as an editor and columnist for The Inquirer from 1998 to 2007, and worked as a news editor for ESPN.

In announcing plans for the Claire Smith Center, the Klein College said the program will focus in part on “breaking down barriers of gender and race in sports media.” Smith has firsthand experience. In 1984, she was barred from the San Diego Padres’ clubhouse after Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Padres first baseman Steve Garvey agreed to an interview outside the clubhouse, offering words of encouragement for Smith.

Later that week, new commissioner Peter Ueberroth ordered all teams to open clubhouses to all properly credentialed media members, including women.

“It’s safe to say she was fighting battles and she was opening doors a generation of women have walked right through because of her and because of other pioneers like her,” USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan said in 2018. “She was paving the way for women and for people of color, in a very important way.”

Smith received the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Career Excellence Award in 2017 during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Zumoff, a 1992 Temple graduate, recently announced his retirement after 27 seasons as television play-by-play announcer for the 76ers. He’s an 18-time Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award winner for play-by-play.

Smith will co-direct the center with John DiCarlo, managing director of student media at Temple and an adjunct faculty member.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association made a $350,000 joint donation to help establish the Claire Smith Center, according to the Klein College. Various other donors include ESPN, the Fernleigh Foundation, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, the Phillies, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, with fund-raising set to continue.

“Claire’s writing was always about truth and honesty,” Baker said. “She has come full circle back to Temple University and deserves to be honored with the naming of the center.”