Queer Reading: Gay former MLB umpire pens memoir

  • by Roger Brigham, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday May 18, 2022
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Former MLB umpire Dale Scott has written a memoir about coming out as a gay man. Photo: Courtesy University of Nebraska Press<br><br>
Former MLB umpire Dale Scott has written a memoir about coming out as a gay man. Photo: Courtesy University of Nebraska Press

This year the headlines in Major League Baseball were about the lockout by the owners; rule changes to restore the public interest, which has been flagging the past few generations; and the long anticipated/feared acceptance of designated hitters in the National League. The lockout eventually ended, the jury is still out on how the rule changes will affect the game, and the NL finally caved and accepted the less intriguing world of pitchers whose only task in life is to throw the ball and sit around watching teammates actually play the game so long peddled by the American League.

The question MLB should have been asking is why is it still the one major American men's professional team sport that still has not had an active openly gay player?

"Football, hockey, basketball, soccer — they've all had an active player who came out," former American League umpire Dale Scott said during a recent phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "Baseball still has the distinction of not having an active player come out."

In 2013, Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy became the first out gay athlete to play in Major League Soccer or any men's top level professional team in the United States.

That same year Jason Collins came out in the offseason as a free agent; he signed with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2014 season to become the first active out player in the NBA before retiring later that year.

In 2021, Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders revealed he was gay, becoming the first active NFL player to do so, though the Raiders released him on March 17, reportedly because of his big salary, per a story on NBC News.

Also in 2021, NHL prospect Luke Prokop came out while under contract with the Nashville Predators. He is currently playing under that contract with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.

Not that MLB hasn't tried pretty consistently over the past decade to signal its support for the LGBTQ community. Gay former player Billy Bean became MLB's part-time ambassador for inclusion in 2014 before being promoted to vice president of social responsibility and inclusion in early 2016. Many ball clubs hold designated events marketed for the LGBTQ community. But there is still no active openly gay player.

"I don't have an answer for you in baseball," Scott said. "We haven't seen any of that. All I can say is baseball in the past has been slow to adapt to changing norms."

In his new memoir, "The Umpire is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self," co-written by Rob Neyer and published May 1 by University of Nebraska Press, Scott talks about the tangible support he received that made his coming out a virtual breeze.

His husband, Michael Rausch, was already covered in Scott's umpiring contract as a domestic partner and carried a spouse identification card. Scott, 62, had been coming out privately to a handful of fellow umpires for years and had felt no backlash. As his months and years in baseball passed, he began to realize his efforts to "pass" as straight were less and less necessary and more and more ineffective.

"By the time I came out publicly in 2014, the umpires I worked with — and for — all knew I was gay," Scott said. "When I came out, teams didn't know and the media didn't know, but this was not a surprise to Major League Baseball. It seemed a little hypocritical to me to still be in the closet."

Scott came out of the closet by choice. Former National League umpire Dave Pallone was outed in 1988 when he was erroneously linked to a sex ring involving teenage boys; he later successfully sued MLB for wrongful termination. Pallone's 1991 autobiography, "Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball," was a best-seller.

Scott's book presents a stark contrast to Pallone's dark tome and could make a difference for young players thinking of coming out.

Scott shows a light touch in his book when discussing his closeted life and the process of coming out. He talks about knee-jerk efforts to disguise his orientation and nightlife activities through references to made-up girlfriends' visits to relatives. The book's first chapter title "Nutcutters, Polebenders and Shithouses" is pretty much a click-bait teaser about the everyday jargon of umpires. The rest of the book is peppered with memorable moments, games, and players.

Scott retired at the age of 58 in 2017 after receiving his fourth concussion in a career that lasted more than 30 years.

At the time, Bean said, "Years ago, Dale reached out to me after my personal story went public. If we had been able to have that conversation when I was still playing, I know it would have changed the course of my career. Dale's legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire others to pursue their dreams, and I hope we see the results around MLB soon."

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