of an out gay/bi ballplayer in today’s game. Your thoughts?
That’s a great question, Randy, especially in today’s climate of suspense surrounding “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the California ballot initiative. In the past few years we’ve seen a couple football players come out of the closet along with a basketball player or two. Baseball, of course, has Billy Bean. But the one thing that all of these guys have in common is that they didn’t come out until after their careers were over. I think that says a lot about the continued repressive climate in professional sports.
However, I don’t think this really comes as a surprise. Sports have the power to do good but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. When Jackie Robinson finally broke into the major leagues, the Civil War had been over for 80 years and the 13th Amendment had been around nearly as long. But that didn’t mean baseball felt any need to allow black players into the league and it definitely didn’t mean the fans immediately accepted it.
The difference here is that skin color is something immediately apparent, something you can’t necessarily hide. That made the conflict much more apparent as well. But sexuality you can hide and many gay athletes choose to take that route because it’s simpler. Why confront the issue and suffer the very real consequences when you can choose to step around it?
That’s one reason why baseball is still looking for its gay trailblazer, a guy who can step up and proudly say that he’s out before heading to the ballpark to do his job, ignoring the slurs and comments.
But there’s another aspect to this that we need to remember. Jackie wasn’t just any ballplayer. He was an All-Star, a guy who played on a winning team and who was one of the leaders of that team. If a Ryan Howard, an Albert Pujols or a Tim Lincecum were to come out and then continue to perform at the same level, it could have the same effect as Robinson. But some ordinary Joe, a roleplayer who has to grind it out, sadly, that just doesn’t mean the same thing.
This is an important distinction. The only reason that anyone still talks about Billy Bean is because of his coming out story. He was an adequate ballplayer but that’s it. Yes, Jackie was black but he also was the Rookie of the Year, won an MVP and was elected into the Hall of Fame. He didn’t let himself be defined as a black ballplayer; he was a great ballplayer who happened to be black.
In order to truly overcome the stigma of being gay, an out ballplayer would have to transcend his sexuality. That’s the point when he truly becomes accepted and that’s the point when it becomes easier for other ballplayers to come out and join him. But until that time, it’s going to be a difficult road.
Statistically, it’s nearly impossible that there are no gay or bi baseball players in the game today. And like you pointed out in your post, when respected guys like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Joe Torre say they would welcome out ballplayers on their team, you would like to think that a change is coming. But I’m afraid we still have a ways to go.
And this is what we learned:
President Obama has balls… showing up in a Sox hat
Allen hates the wave
Fair-weather Nats fans are led by a massive group of IBM consultants who can’t keep their mouths shut during the game
Allen hates IBM consultants who can’t keep their mouths shut during the
Stephen Strasburg’s ears ARE that big
Chili Cheese Half Smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl = Good. The day AFTER Chili Cheese Half Smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl = NOT so good.
Friday night games at Nats Park always end with a kick@ss fireworks show
Allen hates fireworks
And for Ken Griffey, Sr., a man who just four years ago was diagnosed with prostate cancer, this is definitely great news.
Fully recovered and feeling strong, the elder Griffey has joined other sport legends Len Dawson, Rod Woodson, Jim Kelly and (one of my personal favorites) Ozzie Smith in the Depend Campaign to End Prostate Cancer, a movement which educates the public on this important men’s health issue.
By sharing his own personal story, Griffey, Sr. hopes to help quell this potentially devastating disease. “I was diagnosed early. To me, that’s the most important thing: to get diagnosed early. Because then there’s treatment and it’s pretty much curable.”
Griffey was fortunate enough to know this before he was diagnosed, so the fight against the disease began long before he actually acquired it.
“My doctor explained to me that I was a strong candidate for it because of the fact that it was in my family. I had four uncles that passed from prostate cancer. My doctor was very cautious about it, making sure that with each physical I was tested for it.”
Today, not only is Griffey, Sr. spreading the message against prostate cancer, he’s also living life to the fullest, working every day as the hitting coach for the minor league Dayton Dragons, and reflecting on his own illustrious Major League career.
“Getting the opportunity to play with Junior, hitting the back-to-back homeruns with Junior, being world champions with the Cincinnati Reds… those are the major highlights of my career.”
In light of his son’s recent retirement from baseball, when asked about how long it took for Senior to transition he replied: “It didn’t take me long!”
Of course, Senior’s was a decision forced by injury. “For Junior, it was a decision based on the fact that he wasn’t getting the opportunity to play. He sat out for ten games or something like that. We had talked about it last winter. We discussed it. And I think he felt pretty good about the idea of coming home to be with the family.”
And as one legend leaves the game, a new sensation potentially takes his place in Stephen Strasburg. Not since Ken Griffey, Jr. came up in 1989 has there been more buzz about a rookie phenom than there is right now about Strasburg.
“Yeah, that’s exactly right. When Junior came into the league, everyone wanted to see him play.”
Did they ever. One would have to be from another planet to not know how colossally good Junior’s career was, how he became an idol for the masses, how he used class and composure to solidify his future place in the Hall of Fame.
Indeed, Strasburg has a long way to go. But Ken Griffey, Sr. does see the potential: “From what I’ve seen, he has a tremendous career ahead of him… if he stays healthy.”
Then, with a deep-hearted chuckle reminiscent of one who has overcome adversity and seen baseball legends come and go, Senior said:
“I’ve seen him on T.V. But I couldn’t tell you much about how he pitches unless I face him.”
Ken Griffey, Sr. has faced an obstacle or two before. And I’m pretty sure that if he strapped on the cleats today, he’d still have plenty of fight in him.
For more information on how you can join Ken Griffey, Sr. in the fight against prostate cancer, please visit the Depend website.
(by Jeffery Lung)
- – –
Special thanks to Kristin Adams from Taylor PR for arranging the interview with Ken Griffey Sr.
This was the first time I ever spoke to a baseball legend on the phone, so to say I was excited about it doesn’t quite relay just how excited I was. Think Erin-Andrews-in-my-living room-like excited.
Do you ever sit there and wonder what happened to role-playing, workaday guys who played for your favorite team when you were growing up? For me, the ultimate example is Frank Tanana. The guy was good but he wasn’t great. What he did, though, was get the job done. Most of the time.
Then he’s gone and you never hear anything about him again. Sometimes they’re career backups like Sal Fasano or Koy Detmer and sometimes they’re guys who manage to have one amazing season or one defining game but then disappear for all time.
But does any of it compare to Ralph Macchio. This is not to say that he isn’t still around in one form or another but when’s the last time you noticed that Karate Kid was playing on TNT and wondered whatever happened to Ralph Macchio?
Luckily, there’s an easy way to find out. Just click play.
“Oh my god, he kicked Steve!” Yep, that’s what you get for sweeping the leg, Cobra-kai.
And so in this Podcast…
Jeff and Johanna welcome a paragon of baseball intelligentsia, Mr. Paul Lebowitz — the one and only Prince of New York! If you aren’t already reading the Prince’s daily column *here* or *here* then you probably should get on that. Like, right away. Or else. And if that ain’t enough, you can certainly follow him on Twitter too. To be honest, the man is too ruthless and too unfettered for you to not be paying attention to him… so the RSBS crew made sure to get him at his best. Among the titillating
topics of discussion: Jason Bay’s UZR, men left on base (LOB), Keith Hernandez’s hunches, BRAINS!!!!… the Lou Piniella Mailbag and much, much more!
to the RSBS Podcast by clicking *HERE*
via iTunes by clicking *HERE*
thanks to Keith Carmack — our engineer, director, editor and
all-around sound guru. His Undercast podcast is the bomb shizzy, by the way. It’s available on iTunes and is posted regularly at Undercard Films.
**Image by Annette T. (Thanks, Annette!) Check out her sweet@ss blog!
Recorded Saturday , June 12, 2010
“Over the weekend, a 10-year-old Westchester, New York boy attempted to break the world record for
wearing the most pairs of underwear at one time.”
–Hailey Eber, BlackBook
Obviously, the evolution of our species isn’t always smooth.
Now, dear readers, I’m no scientist, but I am fairly certain that the same neurological misfirings of the human brain responsible for the abomination alluded to above, are the exact same neurological misfirings responsible for us thinking it’s okay for the Tampa Bay Rays to wear powder blue jerseys… which are the exact same neurological misfirings that lead people to believe Rod Blagojevich is really just a nice guy who made a mistake.
Sometimes my species embarrasses me.
So hate me… if you must. But please remember: unless you’re George Brett, you only need to wear one set of undies.
And, oh yeah… don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
More than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I started to wonder why baseball fans don’t enjoy it more. Both sports tend to end in low-scoring affairs. There are some matches that get blown wide open but for the most part, there are a lot of near misses and defensive stand-offs.
Both sports require an intelligent caretaker. Yes, you need to have the right personnel to execute the coach’s plan but management is integral to the two games. When a goal is scored in soccer, the ESPN highlight tends to show only the moment itself. But that moment is usually the culmination of several minutes of slowly building action. A good manager notices where the weaknesses are and then has his team exploit those advantages.
It’s not really all that much different than a baseball manager noticing the opposing pitcher taking a little bit longer in his windup and sending a guy who isn’t much of a base stealer because that extra half second might be all he needs. We all know that a guy at second base is a much bigger threat than a guy on first and a soccer player knows that a corner kick is a much bigger threat than a throw in from the sideline.
So much of baseball and soccer is based on a patient strategy being slowly implemented. Pitchers set up batters during early at-bats just like strikers set up defenders during early runs.
I’m amazed when people tell me how they think baseball is boring. They tell me they don’t understand the rules and they don’t know how people can sit there and watch it. Any baseball fan will tell you that every game has a hundred different little dramatic moments. And likewise I’m amazed when a baseball fan tells me they don’t understand soccer and that it’s boring to watch. The rules may be different but the drama and the intensity are completely on par.
With the exception of Mexico, the baseball playing world and the soccer playing world exist in two very different spheres. But it’s time we move beyond that silliness. Who knows, maybe I’ll even wear my team USA jersey this weekend when I go watch Strasburg pitch. USA! USA! USA!!!
I’m a huge baseball fan and I love your blog but sometimes I worry about
all the blasphemy. Any chance you guys could tone that down a little?
More baseball, less blasphemy.
We don’t know no stinking blasphemy!
The following are all FACTS that our loyal interns have researched thoroughly. If you do not regard them as FACTS then that is your problem and not ours because they’ve been teaching this stuff for a couple thousand years and I don’t know about you, but anything that has been taught for a couple thousand years MUST be FACT…
Jesus Only Likes Certain Baseball Players
You will know which players he likes by the individual player’s performance. Jesus will help guys get homeruns but for those whom he detests (Mark Reynolds comes to mind) he will cause problems by making him strikeout with runners in scoring position. If this is too confusing, then think of it this way: Jesus loves Josh Hamilton, hates Aramis Ramirez. Loves Albert Pujols, hates Raul Ibanez. Loves Stephen Strasburg, hates Kenshin Kawakami.
Jesus May Be Johnny Damon
The bloodwork still needs to be finalized — the midichlorians counted over again — but we’re pretty sure that Johnny Damon still holds the key as the physically reformed Jesus on earth. He helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series; if that isn’t proof that Jesus is really the son of god and stuff then I don’t know what else to say to convince you. If you don’t believe, then you probably don’t believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny either… both unforgivable offenses.
The Face on this Baseball Belongs to Jesus
Don’t believe me? Well, then prove that it’s NOT Jesus’ face! Yeah, hahahaha, sucker!!! I knew you couldn’t do it. Now what? That’s Jesus’ face, dude. For serious…
Now if Jesus wasn’t real, if god didn’t want to show me miracles in my life, then how in the hell would these Jesus bats end up in my car all of the sudden? Huh?!? Well??? Exactly. Jesus put them there… ‘cuz Jesus loves me… and…
Jesus Hates the Cubs
Some things just never get old…
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
***SEND US YOUR FILIBUSTERS****
Something on your mind? Want to see
Jeff and Al sweat (separately, not
together, eww)? Think you got a real stumper? Send us your Filibuster
question(s) by commenting or emailing them to us at
*Suggestions on how to draw the prophet Muhammad without getting murdered also welcome.
My painfully slow tour of all the MLB parks continues next month in San Francisco and it appears I’m getting there not a moment too soon. That’s right, all signs say that the big one is about to hit CA and I for one believe it. After all, what’s not to trust about this guy?
I’m pretty sure that’s a National Weather Service parka. And more importantly, this video is on the internet and we all know the internet never lies.
Happy Saturday! California, you only have several more to go so you better enjoy it extra hard.
What’s black and blue and so p!ss drunk that it looks like a Philadelphia Flyers fan?
If you answered the Cubs/Whitesox Crosstown Classic, then you are absolutely correct, dear reader! Now, buy me a shot (and none of that buttery nipple nonsense; hit me with the Jameson)!
Verily, I love the Second City infighting. Cubs. White Sox. Northside. Southside. Rotten Governors. Presidents of the United States. Whether both teams are playoff bound (2008) or just treading water til next April (2010), it is no secret that this intracity rivalry brings out the best — ahem — worst in human nature.
And that includes making baseball managers think they can rap.
Don’t hate MC Sweet Lou and DJ Gui-licious… ‘cuz they’re right.