Penthouse Retrospective

by Dave Pallone with Alan Steinberg Originally Published: July, 1990

Gay Umpires | 30 Years Ago This Month

I dragged myself into my hotel room around 2 A.M… but needless to say, I couldn’t sleep. When morning broke I was worn out. On the train I was so nervous, and it was so humid outside, I sweated profusely all the way to New York. I arrived at the league office, soaked and drained, at exactly 10 A.M. When I entered Giamatti’s office, I was surprised to find Lou Haynes there. He was the league counsel-an instant danger sign. Giamatti’s face was creased with concern. He said, “David, we have a problem in Saratoga Springs, New York. They’re conducting an investigation into a homosexual sex scandal involving teenage boys, and the assistant district attorney wants to talk to you about it. His name is Thomas McNamara. Do you know him?”

I said, “No. And I don’t understand. If there’s a problem, how come they haven’t come to me?”

“I don’t know. But they came to us, and you must contact this man.”

“I don’t even know what this is all about. I’ve heard rumblings about it, but I am not involved in any way whatsoever.”

“Nevertheless, you need to attend to this. The season’s almost over, so we feel you should take a leave of absence, with pay, and take whatever time you need to get it straightened out.”

“Jesus, I don’t want a leave of absence.”

“I’m sorry, Dave. Either you take it or I have to give it to you — and I don’t want to do it that way.” He showed me two letters dated September 15 — one granting my request for a leave and the other directing me to take a leave. “I had both letters written up for you,” he said. “But I think it will be better for you if you take the leave voluntarily, rather than if I give it to you.”

I was confused. I said, “Well, Jesus Christ, I can’t make this decision now. I have to talk to my lawyer.”

He then escorted me into the conference room and showed me the phone. “Use it for as long as you like.”

I called Joe Fiore and explained the options I was offered. Joe said, “Take the voluntary leave.” I said, “You think it’s the right thing to do?” He said, “Yeah, take it. I don’t see any problems with that.” I wasn’t sure, but I figured I wasn’t paying a lawyer not to take his advice. So I went back into Giamatti’s office and told him I would take the leave.

“Good,” he said. “I’m glad you made that decision.” He gave me the appropriate letter, and we agreed that if anyone inquired about me, the league office would say only that I took a leave of absence for “personal reasons.” Then I blurted out, “I can’t believe this is happening. What about next year?”

Giamatti said, “Let’s not worry about next year. Let’s just get over this first.” On that note I left. I had second thoughts immediately. When I told Paul Runge what had happened I felt even worse, because he was against the leave. He said it would look like I was guilty of something. I said, “Well. all I know is I’m not. And I hope this doesn’t affect our friendship.” Dead serious, he answered, “You don’t make it easy. Every time you take a step, the whole world falls in behind you.”

Little did I know that in just a few days I would feel like the whole world had fallen on me. On Friday, knowing I would need an attorney licensed in New York, I asked Joe Fiore to refer me to the best one he knew. He lined me up with E. Stewart Jones. Jr., a renowned defense attorney from Troy, near Albany. A meeting was arranged for the following Wednesday in Troy, and another one was scheduled for Thursday between Jones, Fiore. myself, and Assistant D.A. McNamara at McNamara’s office in Saratoga Springs.

My main concern was to give McNamara my side of the story before my name got leaked to the press. I knew that if the papers found out I was being investigated in a homosexual sex scandal, I was dead. They would absolutely crucify me. Most people believe what they read. Innocent or guilty — it doesn’t matter: “Well. the paper said so. It must be true.” Even if you didn’t do it. once the papers say you did it-or even that you’re suspected of doing it — you’re through. It raises too much doubt in people’s minds. But if you’re cleared and they print that. does anybody see it or remember it? No. They only remember that you were linked to the problem one way or another. I understood the mechanism, because for ten years I was “Dave Pallone. the scab umpire.” and now I was “the Pete Rose guy.” Those labels stick. That’s why my thinking was, Christ almighty. Imagine what I’ll be labeled if this gets out.

In the meantime, all I could do was lay low and wait until Wednesday. But the big news that weekend was that Dave Pallone didn’t work his scheduled games in Cincinnati. Because of the Rose thing, that was a very big deal there. The press interviewed [my crew chief, veteran umpire] John Kibler. they called the National League office, and they tried to find out where I lived. One A.P. jockey, Ben Walker, found my apartment, left me messages, even sent me a telegram. But my lawyer told me, “No interviews,” and I agreed, because I didn’t have any details yet, and I knew that no matter what I said, the media would end up distorting it. So I instructed my doorman to tell people I wasn’t in the building, and I kept sneaking out the back door to my friend Francis’s for some privacy.

I was distraught-and also petrified that the fact I was gay would almost certainly come out. It was hard enough for me to think about telling relatives and lifelong friends face to face, so what would it be like if they read it in the papers — and in this kind of story? But after a weekend of nonstop worry, I was relieved when the major article on Monday the 19 mentioned only my baseball problem, though it mistakenly said I resigned.

It does not take much of an intellectual stretch to understand that gay umpires in pro sports have been around a long time. But few have ever opened up about it.

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