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Women take center stage at baseball writers' annual dinner

When other Padres players boycotted writer Claire Smith, Steve Garvey stood with Smith and wrote a letter of protest. Willie Weinbaum, ESPN.com

An annual tradition for the column: William Weinbaum’s notes from the Baseball Writers’ dinner in New York, where award winners pick up their hardware.

On a Saturday that will be remembered for its worldwide rallies for women's rights, the most powerful, poignant moments at the 94th annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America centered on women.

The dais in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton -- a block from the route covered earlier in the day by an estimated 400,000 Manhattan marchers -- featured baseball royalty, including two women: Claire Smith, who on July 29 will become the first female recipient of the Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing," and Sharon Robinson, whose father, Jackie, broke the sport's color barrier 70 years ago this spring when he took the field for Brooklyn.

Smith, formerly with the Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Bulletin and New York Times, is now a news editor for ESPN. Former All-Star and iron man Steve Garvey, who helped her overcome the hostility of his San Diego Padres during the 1984 National League Championship Series, discussed the vital role of the press and described Smith as "kind and merciful, fair and just," in introducing her as one of the banquet's honorees.

"In her warm and gentle way, [she] won us all over," Garvey said. "She not only wrote, but she taught us responsibility to do the right thing and say the right thing."