At the fourth annual SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference on September 17, 2022, the Baseball Journalism Panel included BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner Claire Smith, the Chicago Tribune’s Shakeia Taylor, The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, and moderator Melissa Isaacson of Northwestern University.
Claire Smith became the first woman to win the prestigious BBWAA Career Excellence Award, honoring meritorious contributions to baseball writing, in 2017 and a co-director of the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media at Temple University. Shakeia Taylor is a Deputy Senior Content Editor at the Chicago Tribune and the host of SABR’s Ballpark Figures. Jen McCaffrey is a staff writer for The Athletic covering the Boston Red Sox. Melissa Isaacson is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. A sportswriter for more than 30 years
- Video: Click here to watch a replay of the 2022 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference Baseball Journalism Research Panel (YouTube)
Here are some highlights:
On the appeal of baseball for a writer
- Taylor: “Baseball is a game of stories. Every time something big happens in the sport, it adds a new story. There is something there. I’m a big reader and I think that’s the romance of the game. There is always a story. Something to tell, something to pass down, something to connect to pretty much every night […] it’s the stories that keep me coming back.”
- Smith: “Baseball is the perfect sport designed for the written word.”
On seeing more women in different roles in baseball
- Taylor: “I’m always thinking, ‘Why did it take so long?’ I really want to ask those questions, sometimes. Why did you decide to do this now? Why didn’t it happen before? Even in the midst of all that, I’m still extremely happy for the women who are getting these jobs. … I think it’s great that they are seen. It’s great that their stories are getting told. I think it does wonders for the sport in general, not just women in the sport.”
- McCaffrey: “I think it’s really important to write about and speak about these roles so that it becomes more out there, so that people know about it more, know about their jobs more, and their paths, and how hard it was to kind of break through … seeing more and more women on the field and in these roles of power is nice to see.”
On life in the clubhouse and press box today as a female journalist
- McCaffrey: “There are still things that come up. … There’s always going to be room for improvement and room for growth, but it is encouraging and good to see a lot more women around on a consistent basis and just seeing women, not only reporters, but working for the teams and in the PR departments. I think that is important to keeping women in places of authority.”
On how baseball was ahead of American society with integration
- Smith: “What if Jackie [Robinson] and Branch Rickey’s grand experiment failed? … The one statement that really jumps out at you is Martin Luther King Jr. putting into a letter to Jackie Robinson saying, ‘There wouldn’t have been a Martin Luther King Jr. without Jackie Robinson.’ How far would we have been removed from the Civil Rights Movement? It might not have happened by the ‘70s. It might not have happened by the ‘80s because this one man had this boulder on his back to make it work. That’s what I mean — way ahead of his time. He was more than just a baseball player.”
Transcription assistance by Jeremy Breland.
For more coverage of the 2022 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference, visit SABR.org/women-in-baseball-conference.
Originally published: September 27, 2022. Last Updated: September 26, 2022.