RIP women media pioneers: First female ESPN sports anchor, MLB beat writer

Last week marked the passing of two women who helped lay the foundation for future generations.


ESPN remembered Rhonda Glenn, its first women sports anchor. I knew Rhonda from her work with the United States Golf Association.

From John Skipper:

“All of us at ESPN are deeply saddened by the news of Rhonda Glenn’s passing. As ESPN’s first female anchor, she is an important part of our history and someone who was a pioneer in our business. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and many friends.” This Front Row profile was published in April 2013.”

ESPN Front Row re-posted a story about Glenn talking about her experience at ESPN.

As it has been in many other areas, ESPN was and remains a leader in providing opportunities for women, and that was certainly the case in 1981 when Rhonda Glenn sat down behind theSportsCenter desk. Two years after ESPN launched in 1979, Glenn, at the age of 34, made history as the first fulltime female sportscaster for a national television network.

“The fact that I was on what you would call the ‘cutting edge’ really didn’t make an impact on me,” said Glenn, who left ESPN after two years and has worked in communications for the United States Golf Association (USGA) since 1996. “It wasn’t something I strived for. I never wanted to be the first, I just wanted the job.”

A standout amateur and collegiate golfer, Glenn had been working in television since 1969, starting as a sports reporter in Norfolk, Va., and had been a women’s golf analyst for ABC Sports for three years when she started with ESPN.

 “The difference then was that wherever I went, I was the only woman,” she said. “I just felt, ‘Well, I can do this, and I’m going to apply.’”

Once she arrived at ESPN, Glenn quickly fit in.

“It was a very casual atmosphere then,” she said. “ESPN had not been on the air that long. We had a really nice studio building and a nice newsroom.

“It was a little crowded because I think they were having to hire more people than they may have thought they would, but it was 24 hours so you had to have a lot of people to do that.”


Meanwhile, the Toronto Star did a tribute to Alison Gordon, who died at the age of 72. She made history for being the first women to be a beat writer for a baseball team.

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.”

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