Penthouse Retrospective

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

Gay Umpires | 30 Years Ago This Month

“After seeing the sights, we swung over to Larry’s house, but he wasn’t home. We drove around and saw more of the area. Then we came back to Larry’s — still nobody home. It struck us as odd, because his car was there yet no one answered the door.”

“So we decided to go to Bill’s house. When we knocked there, a man with a foreign accent answered the door and said he was a friend of Bill’s and that he was staying a few days. We asked where Bill was, and the guy said he was on his way over to Larry’s house. He said, ‘I was going over there myself. Can I catch a ride with you?’ We said yes, and we all drove over.”

“When we knocked at Larry’s door this time, he answered it and let us in. We went straight into the large living room, where a football game was playing on TV. He offered me a beer and showed me around the downstairs — it was a big Victorian house with huge rooms. Then we came back to watch TV and talk. At that point there were just five adults in the room — Larry, Bill, Sam, me, and this foreign guy. About ten minutes later, a teenage boy came down the stairs. He was wearing a jacket with a backpack, and he looked maybe 14 or 15. Larry introduced me as ‘Dave the ump.’ I didn’t like that, but I didn’t mention it. The kid shook my hand and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and sat down on the couch with us. I didn’t know who this kid was or what he was doing there, or even if he knew we were gay. I was concerned about that, and I remember commenting to Bill, ‘He’s so young’-meaning that maybe he shouldn’t be around us.”

“Accepting the settlement meant no more legal bills, no more ostracism and having to stand alone at home plate again, acting out a farce.”

“About ten minutes later, we got up and left. Larry and Bill went to their car to go to lunch; Sam and I went to our car; the kid and the foreign guy went their own way on foot. That was the only time I ever saw either of them. I never saw the upstairs of the house and I was only in the house for a total of about 25 minutes.”

The next morning, Joe Fiore, E. Stewart Jones, Jr., and I met with Assistant D.A. McNamara in Saratoga Springs. McNamara explained that he was investigating me for having sex with a teenage boy at Larry Blodgett’s house; that the boy insisted he had engaged in sexual activity with me; and that a male witness had appeared anonymously on local TV and said that I had gone upstairs to be alone with the boy. I told McNamara they were both lying. Basically, that was it.

Over the next week to ten days, I explained the situation to people close to me. The first thing everybody asked was, “Did you resign?” I said, “I did not resign. I took a temporary leave of absence.” Then I explained about the sex scandal: “I am not involved in any teenage sex ring. I don’t know where they got their information, but I have to clear my name from that.” It was interesting that several people asked, “Do you think Pete Rose had anything to do with it because of your run-in with him?” I said, “Absolutely not. No way.”

It was amazing — not one person came right out and asked me if I was gay. Either they were too afraid to ask, or they surmised I was gay, or they didn’t read between the lines. The subject only came up once, and it wasn’t spelled out. I was talking to my godmother, who, from reading the newspaper articles, now assumed I was gay. She said, “Now I understand why you’ve had all these inner problems all these years.” And I said, “Well, I’ve been wanting to tell you for the last three or four years, but every time I tried, I got cold feet. I could not come out and tell you, because I always felt I was going to lose your love. I just could not take that chance.”

By mid-October there were still no charges against me. In the meantime, Larry Blodgett had been sentenced to up to eight years in state prison on sodomy charges (but was free on bond pending the outcome of his appeal), and Bill Desadora had admitted to thirddegree sodomy and was awaiting sentencing. Both of them had corroborated my version of what happened Saturday at Larry’s house. They confirmed that I was never part of the sex ring; I had never met the teenage boy before he was introduced to me that day, and the meeting was not prearranged; I never displayed any sexual interest in the boy; I was never out of their sight the whole time the boy was there. Sam Gennaro also confirmed my version of the story.

At the end of October, my attorney informed me that the anonymous TV witness — the foreign guy staying at Desadora’s that weekend — had just been arrested for breaking and entering, was also facing a drunk-driving charge, and had a previous criminal record. Jones also went directly to District Attorney David Wait and told him that they had already ruined my life, had absolutely nothing on me, and were banking on an unreliable witness. In effect, Jones said they had no case.

I was convinced that the district attorney’s office came after me for one reason: I was a public figure in the wrong place at the wrong time. My guess was that the foreign guy probably offered up my name to get himself out of other charges, and the D.A.’s office wanted to believe him — maybe because of the notoriety they thought they’d get if they nailed a celebrity. If I weren’t a public figure, even if they had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was in the sex ring, since I was only there that one day they probably would have said, “Let’s forget it. We’re not going after him. He’s nobody.” But because I was Dave Pallone, National League umpire, they went after me big time. And no one can tell me that my name didn’t draw more national attention because of the Pete Rose thing.

As for the teenage boy, I cannot explain why he would say what he did about me. Maybe the foreign guy threatened him; maybe the kid was so active in the sex ring that he really thought he did those things with me; maybe he just wanted to brag about having been with a celebrity. I have no idea — I’m not a psychiatrist. But I do know he used me as a scapegoat.

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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