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Major League props: Claire Smith trailblazed her way to baseball HOF

As the first woman, she deserves the honor

Photo: The Shadow League

It got real for Claire Smith.

That's right. Go back to 1984.The San Diego Padres simply weren't having it. They didn't want a “broad” in the clubhouse after the game - even if she had a journalism degree and a press pass.

Worse, they didn't just ask Smith to leave. Oh no, baby. Smith was physically removed from the clubhouse by Padres' personnel in the National League Championship Series in Chicago.

Hard to imagine that flying these days, but people were closed-minded and dumb.

That's why the Padres had a "no-women-in-the-clubhouse" policy. Manager Dick Williams was behind the mandate. And he meant it.

Still, it didn't stop Smith. She was going to sit in the press box and try to do her job even though she knew a confrontation was very possible.

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 Photo: thesportscapital.net

"They were enthusiastically violating a league edict," Smith recalled in an interview. "One of the clubhouse people physically put his hands on me, pushed me out of the locker room."

With time ticking on her deadline, Smith's goal was to get quotes, write her story and file it to her newspaper.

At this point, Smith, frustrated and in tears, asked another writer to inform Padres' first baseman Steve Garvey what had happened.

Garvey came out and allowed Smith to interview him. Smith was able to get the job done.

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 Claire Smith with Sandy Koufax (left) and Steve Garvey at the 1985 MLB All-Star Game. Photo: The Shadow League

The Padres' stand against women didn't go over well. In fact, just a week later, new MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth ruled that the leagues would now control clubhouse access and that any properly credentialed media representative would be honored - man or woman.

"He said this would no longer be an issue," Smith said of the commish. "He took the power away from the clubs. That's when it all changed."

Indeed. The same thing happened on Tuesday. The Baseball Hall of Fame changed, too.

This time, Smith, a longtime baseball writer, wasn't shown the door. Instead, Smith got the red carpet treatment, was allowed entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Smith will officially be inducted this summer in Cooperstown, New York.

Smith, the first African-American female newspaper reporter to cover Major League Baseball on a daily basis, was voted into the HOF by her peers, winning the J.G. Spink Award. She's the first female to win it.

To read the rest of this piece, check out The Shadow League.

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