Penthouse Retrospective

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

Gay Umpires | 30 Years Ago This Month

If I really had done something illegal or violated the morals clause of my contract, and if baseball could have nailed me to the wall for it, would they have ever offered me a dime? Why would they pay me any money — never mind the hefty sum they did pay — if they were right? What their payment said was, “We know we’re wrong and we know it would hurt us in court. But we don’t want you in baseball, so we’ll give you this not to sue us.”

“What was the message —that baseball considered manslaughter, political corruption, solicitation, and sex with a female minor more acceptable than being gay?”

Bart Giamatti died on September 1, 1989. I never had a chance to ask him if he believed me about the Saratoga Springs incident. When I called to give my condolences to his wife, she said, “Dave, I just want you to know that Bart was very upset for months about your situation.” I said, “Thank you for telling me that. You will never know how much your husband meant to me. He was a great human being. I needed to tell you that.”

That phone call was an ending for me. In a way, it might also have been Bart’s final gift of advice-because when he died, so did my anguish and regret over the loss of my career. I realized that I had the rest of my life to live, and that I owed it to myself and all the people who ever cared about me to make something good out of it.

AFTERWORD

In June 1988, during my mid-season vacation, I was· lying on a Spanish island beach thinking, “The old-time umpires could never have imagined vacationing here during the middle of the baseball season.” Then it occurred to me that, like my other trips away from baseball, this wasn’t so much a vacation as another escape. I was still hiding the real me from the world and from myself. That’s when I first considered writing a book and calling it Behind the Mask. But I didn’t have the time to sit down and do it. Then a nightmare called the Saratoga sex scandal wrecked my career and almost my life, and I had the time to tell my story.

I had several reasons for doing it:

  1. My side of the controversies plaguing my baseball career has never been told. Whenever I tried to explain myself publicly, my words and thoughts were taken out of context. After the Saratoga sex scandal, reporters were more interested in distorting the truth than uncovering it. So this book sets the record straight and allows people to judge me fairly.
  2. I believe it’s time for gay people in the public eye to come forward and say, “This is who and what I am.” I want this book to say, “If you’re gay, think about removing your mask. Because unless more of us do that, the backroom politics of prejudice will continue to destroy productive careers and lives.” I realize that some people will think, “That’s easy for you to say. You have nothing to lose.” But that’s not true; I have a lot to lose. For one thing, I have never come out publicly and admitted I was gay, so I am risking many important friendships by revealing myself here. Second, I am still searching for my new career. While I hope this book helps both gay and straight people to rethink their values, I also know that it will shock some potential employers and cost me opportunities.
  3. Our society expects its male sports figures to be “macho,” and many heterosexuals still cling to the myth that all gay men are effeminate “Nellies” working as hairdressers, fashion designers, dancers, or artists. In this book I wanted to dispel those myths and make it clear that gays are just as macho as straights, no matter what career they’re in.
  4. As of this date, not one gay major league ballplayer has come out of the closet — and it’s obvious why not. I hope this book conveys to heterosexuals the terrible scrutiny gays in public life are under, and how vulnerable we are to prejudice in society.
  5. I hope that gays who read this book will be encouraged to be themselves, tell their secret to the people they love, and be proud of their humanity. The book should say to them, “Have courage and pride and be true to yourself. Let people close to you help you. Let the world see you for the person you really are.”

One final note: There has been a lot of tragedy in my life, which I talked about openly in the book. But I want to be clear that I am not asking for sympathy. I am not asking anyone to shed a tear for me. What I am asking of people who read this book is what I’ve asked of everyone I’ve ever known: Accept me for who I am — a decent human being, just like you.

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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