SPORTS

Female sportswriting pioneer Alison Gordon broke down gender barriers

02/12/2015 06:05 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - All Alison Gordon wanted to do was write about baseball when she became a sports reporter at the Toronto Star in the late 1970s. But as one of the few women on the beat back then, just doing her job was a daily fight.

Gordon, who died Thursday at the age of 72, became a trailblazer for female sports journalists, breaking down barriers that had previously kept women out of the locker-room.

"I don't think she went into it with the idea of, 'I want to be a trailblazer,'" her brother Charles Gordon said.

"There had certainly been women before who had written about baseball but I think she was the first actual female beat writer so the whole question of the locker-room was just huge in her first year. Teams just didn't have a policy . . . just about everywhere she went she had to fight to get in."

Gordon, who went on to have a career writing mystery novels, died at a Toronto hospital. Her brother said the cause of death wasn't known.

Born in New York in 1943, Gordon developed her love for baseball growing up in the Big Apple.

"She wasn't a particularly athletic person," said Charles Gordon. "She didn't play sports but living close to New York City as we did when she was in her last years of high school she fell in with some friends who really enjoyed baseball and it became a passion for her."

She attended Queen's University and worked for CBC radio and television before joining the Star where she took over the Jays beat in their third year of existence, a job she held for five seasons.

"She was a pioneer," said Howard Starkman, the Jays former media relations director whose career with the team spanned five decades. "She was a strong woman from an emotional point of view and at that time you had to be because she faced a lot of challenges."

Challenges Gordon faced head-on, according to Starkman.

"I thought she was able to handle it," he said. "She could write, she had good passion for the game so when she did get into the scrum she was able to handle herself. She had credibility with her baseball knowledge so when she wrote about it she wasn't trying to fool anybody. She knew what she was talking about."

Still, it could be very difficult at times, according to Gordon's brother.

"It wasn't fun for her," said Charles Gordon, a former columnist at the Ottawa Citizen. "She didn't enjoy the fact that often when she went to a new city she was the story instead of the team.

"Also, just the frustration of being delayed getting the quotes you needed to file on time for an overnight deadline."

Gordon, whose grandfather was novelist Ralph Connor, transferred her love of baseball to her career as an author.

She earned a National Newspaper Award Citation of Merit for "Foul Balls," her first book that detailed her experiences covering baseball. In 1988, Gordon wrote "The Dead Pull Hitter," the first in a series of five mystery novels featuring heroine Kate Henry, a sportswriter who solved murders in pro baseball.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

MORE:cpSports