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Queer facts about Major League Baseball

America’s Favorite Pastime still lacks openly gay players

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Billy Bean, gay news, Washington Blade
Billy Bean came out in 1999 after retiring from baseball and 22 years later the sport still lacks an out gay player. (Photo courtesy Bean)

After a season-long hiatus from hosting in-the-stands fans at its 30 ballparks and stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball (and its Minor League Baseball feeder system) is back. The annual All-Star Game is set for July 13. Aside from gawking at your favorite players’ posteriors in form-fitting pinstriped pants, there are plenty of queer cheers to give for America’s national pastime. These are gayest things you didn’t know about pro ball.

Glenn Burke broke the first barrier – but it may have cost him

As an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976 to ’78 (and widely regarded co-inventor of the high-five), Glenn Burke broke ground as the first active MLB player to come out as gay to his teammates and bosses. While he was asked to refrain from making his sexual orientation public by Dodgers’ top brass, Burke told People magazine in 1994 that his “mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype” and he thought it worked. In other interviews and in his autobiography, however, he suggested that prejudice drove him out of the sport, not the injury that sent him back down to the minors after a year with the Oakland Athletics. 

The A’s released Burke from his contract before the end of his injured farm-team season, and he retired from the game in 1980. 

In the initial years following his retirement, Burke competed in 100- and 200-meter sprints at the inaugural Gay Games in 1982 and in basketball at the 1986 Games, and for many years he played for the San Francisco Gay Softball League. Burke died of complications from AIDS in 1995.

Burke befriended Tommy Lasorda Jr. – and Tommy Senior wasn’t happy

Legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda Sr. – who led the team to two World Series championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles during his 20-year stewardship from 1976 to 1996 – had a gay son. Burke befriended the younger Lasorda Jr., which angered the “family values” manager, causing a rift that likely contributed to Burke being traded to the A’s after three seasons in Los Angeles. Lasorda Jr. died of AIDS complications in 1991 at age 33. Lasorda Sr. died earlier this year without ever having acknowledged he had a gay son.

It’s been 22 years since the second MLB player came out

Billy Bean, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, L.A. Dodgers and San Diego Padres from 1987 to 1995, came out in the Miami Herald in 1999, four years after retiring. Besides Burke, he remains the only other former MLB player to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality post-career; no active player has ever come out publicly and no former players have come out since. In 2003, Bean released his autobiography “Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life in and out of Major League Baseball,” and in 2014 he was named MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion. In 2016, that role was expanded to Vice President of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, and today Bean serves as Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. 

The L.A. Dodgers are the only team with both players who have come out as gay

Both Burke and Bean played for the Dodgers during their MLB careers – and as history tends to repeat itself, maybe there’s a gay player on the Dodgers’ roster right now. If that’s true, here’s hoping he has the courage to come out and make history while an active player, put the final nail in the coffin of the Dodgers’ homophobic past, and serve as an inspiration to aspiring young pro ball players everywhere. 

No pressure.

Statistics suggest there are dozens of closeted pro baseball players

In a 2015 article for the New York Times, economist and public policy scholar Justin Wolfers wrote that based on the proportion of American men who have acknowledged being gay or bisexual (though not necessarily out), there must be closeted MLB players actively taking the field. Thirty MLB teams each have 40-men rosters equaling 1,200 players who don’t publicly identify as queer. 

“If baseball players are as likely to be gay as other men their age – let’s go with an estimate of 1 in 25 – then the odds that none of these men are gay is one in two sextillion,” Wolfers wrote. “A sextillion comes after a trillion, quadrillion and quintillion; it is a thousand billion billion.”

Of course, there may be gay or bisexual men in MLB who have ripped a page from Burke’s playbook and only confided within their own club. Time will tell.

Lower-level pro ball has a much better coming-out average 

Since Sean Conroy, former pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out publicly in 2015 while still on the team’s roster – the first-ever active pro ball player to do so – a handful of others have followed in his pioneering footsteps (at various stages of their careers), including MiLB players David Denson, Tyler Dunnington, Jason Burch, and John Dillinger.

There are 30 MLB teams – and all but one of them host a Pride night

Twenty years ago this summer, the Chicago Cubs kicked off MLB’s Pride-night tradition with its now-annual “Out at Wrigley” celebration, and almost every club in the organization has followed suit. Twenty-eight teams in the United States and one in Canada host an evening of LGBTQ inclusiveness, usually with special ticket packages that include seats in a dedicated Pride section and rainbow-colored baseball swag. The lone holdout? The two-decades-too-late New York Yankees. 

Two years ago, the Yanks acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and honored five first-annual Yankees-Stonewall Scholarship winners in a special pre-game commemoration ceremony that unveiled a plaque behind the center-field fence dedicated to the occasion. Yet still no Pride night.

The San Francisco Giants made rainbow history for Pride 2021

MLB teams are known to incorporate cause-based logos and patches into their uniforms throughout the season, like the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, for instance, or camouflage to show military appreciation. But on June 5, 2021, the San Francisco Giants became the first team in big-league history to rainbow-ize its uniforms, including a right-sleeve home jersey patch in Pride colors and a matching logo on players’ hats, in celebration of its LGBTQ+ fans.

“We are extremely proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community as we kick off one of the best annual celebrations in San Francisco by paying honor to the countless achievements and contributions of all those who identify as LGBTQ+ and are allies of the LGBTQ+ community,” San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a statement.

A scripted series about gay professional ball players may be coming soon

Author Peter Lefcourt’s novel, “The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story” (1992), about homophobia in baseball that follows two MLB players who get caught up in a sex scandal should be required reading for any on-the-spectrum queer sports fans, but if you’re adverse to cracking open a dusty book, the live-action TV adaptation may be coming to a streaming service near you. 

Universal Television has optioned the novel for development with Oscar- and Emmy-winner David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”) tapped to direct and co-write the pilot with Lefcourt. 

The project has been in development in some form for the past 28 years. Studios put the kibosh on Lefcourt’s and Frankel’s original movie scripts in 1996 – Disney was even interested as one point – citing lack of commercial appeal. 

These are the best butts in baseball according to Us magazine

There’s no definitive queer ranking of the best butts in baseball (and it’s a shame there isn’t) but a few years ago Us magazine asked its readers, majority females, to rank MLB’s greatest assets. Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Matt Harvey, New York Yankee Giancarlo Stanton, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, and Dodger Cody Bellinger rounded out the top five – figuratively and literally. 

Perfectly acceptable. But are there better booties at-bat? 

Consider Diamondback David Peralta, Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout, and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis the next time they take the plate. 

Seventh-inning stretch, anyone?

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He currently works for the Atlanta Braves. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team

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Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels

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Tom Daley (Photo by sportsphotographer.eu via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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