COOPERSTOWN, NY – Ten minutes.
How does one tell such a rich, fulfilling and groundbreaking story in 10 minutes?
That is what Clarie Smith is up against.
Good luck attempting to tell such a compelling story for 10 minutes.
Sometime after 4:30 p.m. today at Doubleday Field, Smith will be presented with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, which honors a writer (or writers) for meritorious contributors to baseball writing. And the speech has a time limit.
"This is hard and one of the hardest things I have ever written," Smith said Saturday morning in a press conference.
Her award is presented by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and Smith will receive her honor a day before Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, John Scheuerholz and former commissioner Bud Selig will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Smith, 64, is the first female and fourth African American winner of the Spink Award, joining Wendell Smith in 1993, Sam Lacey in 1997 and Larry Whiteside in 2008.
During her career, Smith has been a true trailblazer. A graduate of Neshaminy and later Temple, she became the first full-time woman baseball beat writer while working for the Hartford Courant in 1982, where she first covered the New York Yankees. Later she would be elevated to national baseball writer, a job she then performed for the New York Times before coming to The Inquirer in 1998 as a general sports columnist. Since 2007 she has been the coordinator editor of baseball at ESPN.
Even though such an eloquent writer as Smith doesn't need much assistance, she has secured the help of three people looking over her speech, giving her advice as she has fine-tuned every sentence.
The three are Lisa Nehus Saxon, who was among the first female baseball beat writers along with Smith, Bob Elliott, the 2012 Spink winner who currently works for the Canadian Baseball Network and Jon Pessah, who was her editor at the Hartford Courant.
"They have been massaging the speech probably for over a month and helping me," she said. "I think we have it to where I want to and keep in what I need to keep in."
She gave a brief hint of the contents.
"It's a love letter to my son and through my son to all the people who helped me get to here," she said.
She was referring to her son Joshua, who will be 30 in September.
Also to be honored on Saturday are the late Bill King, winner of the 2017 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters and Rachel Robinson, who will be presented the 2017 Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award
Smith's idol and the person who has had so much influence in her being a baseball fan and then a writer, was Jackie Robinson, so it is extra special that Smith will be honored along with the wife of Jackie Robinson.
"Rachel Robinson, her story, Jackie's story are intertwined with my life's story, thanks to my mother who was a Dodgers fan," Smith said.
Smith seemed so poised talking to the media, but no doubt her speech this afternoon tug at the emotions. For now she is soaking in her accomplishment.