The death of a sportswriting pioneer

I never met Mary Garber, and can’t say that she influenced my decision to get into sportswriting because I hadn’t heard of her when I got started. But she earned some belated and deserved attention in her later years.

Garber has died at the age of 92. She was forced to retire from full-time work at the age of 70, but didn’t stop writing altogether until 2002. Garber is the only woman to receive the Red Smith Award, the highest honor for sportswriters.

For me that kind of work was the most satisfying and relevant I’ve ever done, despite sneers in the profession that sports was nothing more than the “Toy Department.”

There is still a stunning lack of women covering games and the whole business of sports, although I’m attempting a bit of a comeback these days. The shrinking newsrooms aren’t helping, either. Two other women who took the buyout with me from my paper also were veteran sportswriters.

So the variety of voices covering sports remains rather limited — generally young, brash, male and rather self-indulgent — and the sports media culture reflects that.


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