Toronto Star Baseball writer and mystery author Alison Gordon: R.I.P. She was Major League baseball's first female beat writer.
Alison Gordon came from a writing family. Her paternal grandfather was a best-selling Canadian novelist under the pen name of Ralph Connor. Her maternal grandfather, Isaac Anderson, reviewed mystery novels for the New York Times. Her mother, Ruth Gordon, worked in publishing as an editor and her father was at one time managing editor of The Nation magazine. Her older brother, Charles, became a newspaper columnist.
But Alison's writing career didn't begin in earnest until her mid-30s when, as a freelance writer, she earned a National Magazine Award for humour writing in 1978. She joined the Toronto Star in 1979 to cover the Toronto Blue Jays, the first woman beat writer. Her first season was difficult, her efforts to gain access to locker rooms often attracting more attention than the games she was covering. But she prevailed and won a National Newspaper Award citation for sportswriting in 1979.
As a baseball writer, Alison demonstrated an effortless style, an appreciation for the human side of the game, as well as a biting wit. She covered the Blue Jays for five years and published a memoir about that period, Foul Balls, published in 1984. Her time with baseball also provided the raw material for a series of five mystery novels whose central character was Kate Henry, a baseball reporter who found herself solving murders. Prairie Hardball, the last in the series, was published in 1997.
From the Toronto Star:
Before she took over the Blue Jays’ beat for the Toronto Star in 1979, Alison Gordon was a highly regarded humorist and comedy writer, talents she eventually discovered would serve her well as she chronicled the daily grind of a fledgling ball club.
“You had to have a sense of humour to cover the Blue Jays,” she told the Star in 1984, “at least in the first few years.” As Major League Baseball’s first female beat writer, Gordon also needed a thick skin, and she had that, too.
“She was relentless,” said Lloyd Moseby, who played for the Jays throughout the 1980s. “A lot of women that are in the profession right now should be very thankful for what Alison did and what she went through. She took a beating from the guys. She was a pioneer for sure.” Long celebrated as a trailblazer for women sportswriters, Gordon died Thursday morning at Toronto East General Hospital. She was 72.