MLB umpire Dale Scott: ‘I wasn’t intimidated by threats to impersonate gay’

MMajor League Baseball umpire Dale Scott made history in 2014. He came out as gay, the first MLB umpire to do so. It was big enough news for Jimmy Fallon to joke about on The Tonight Show – “Well, he says he’s out, but the other refs said he’s safe. So now they have to watch the replay.

But over Scott’s 37-year career in professional baseball, his identity has been no laughing matter. He feared the repercussions if he was unmasked, especially in his early seasons, which coincided with the AIDS crisis. Now retired, Scott looks back on his years in the pros in a new memoir, The Umpire is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self, co-written with Rob Neyer.

“Rob said, ‘You have a completely unique and different story that no one else has ever had’,” says Scott, who initially didn’t want to write the book. “The more I thought about it, after I came out publicly in 2014, the feedback I got was so positive. People told me that my story had really helped them in their lives.

He remains the only MLB umpire to speak publicly while on the job, although the book makes it clear that he is not the only gay umpire in Major League history.

No player active on an MLB roster has been revealed to the public – although there were two who did after their careers ended: the late Glenn Burke and the vice president of social responsibility and the inclusion of MLB Billy Bean, who wrote the introduction to Scott’s book. . Bean recalls a painful memory of his last season, in 1995, when he played for the San Diego Padres. He suffered the death of his partner and felt he couldn’t tell his teammates.

Scott wonders when an active MLB player will come out, as have athletes from other leagues, like Carl Nassib in the NFL and Jason Collins in the NBA.

“We’ve had it in football, basketball, soccer,” Scott says. “Baseball is a little behind on the eight ball. I don’t know exactly why.

Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Scott knew he was gay in middle school. Although a classmate named Leslea had been his high school prom date, by then he had come to terms with her identity.

“I figured I wouldn’t look in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and lie to myself,” he says. “I also understood that I had to play the game, the board game. I couldn’t just walk around in 1979 saying, ‘Guess what, I’m gay.’ He wasn’t going to fly.

“Just because I was ashamed or felt guilty or anything didn’t mean I didn’t come out sooner. I understood society, understood the norms of the time.

Scott says these standards led him to live two lives. “Even before I got into baseball, there was Dale, the happy, funny guy everyone knew, and Dale, who frequented the only gay bar in Eugene, Oregon,” he says. .

His beginnings as a professional referee – in the minor leagues in 1981 – coincided with the AIDS epidemic. He writes that he has lost a number of friends and acquaintances to the disease and has heard homophobic comments from other referees. AIDS-related misinformation was rampant – there were assumptions that all gay men had the disease and that it could be spread by touching shared objects. Scott was concerned about the tight limits of an officiating schedule, which involves sharing locker rooms and hotel rooms. He feared that if his colleagues found out he was gay, they would refuse to work with him.

The referees’ schedule had some unexpected advantages when it came to protecting one’s identity, however.

“I didn’t work in the city where I lived, but I was always on the road, out of town,” Scott says. “It wasn’t like an office job, where you’re in an office with colleagues and go out for a drink, or there’s a Christmas party for the employees and their spouses. I didn’t have to work that kind of schedule. The fact that I didn’t work in the city where I lived worked to my advantage in many ways.

In 1986, there was a significant change in Scott’s family life. That year marked his first season in the American League. After the season, he moved across Oregon, from Eugene to Portland. He went to a gay bar in his new hometown and met an artist named Michael Rausch. Eventually, they moved in together. Scott was hesitant to let his co-workers know: Rausch’s sister, a flight attendant, posed as his date while he was working spring training in Arizona.

“She thought it was a great idea,” Scott says. “It wasn’t because anyone was sniffling around me thinking I was gay. I was just doing it proactively.

Scott first shared his identity with very few people. He told his younger brother, and when he told his mother, she said she already knew. Seven years later, he felt ready to come out to his father – through a letter he took a long time to digest.

During this time he continued to add to his resume, working his first playoff series in 1995 and then his first World Series in 1998. Three years later he worked the spectacular 2001 Fall Classic in the aftermath of 9/11 . Before Game 3, he was able to chat with George W Bush at Yankee Stadium, where the President threw out the first pitch.

The book contains two unconventional sections which Scott describes as popular with readers – a list of all the referees he has worked with and a list of all those he has ever ejected from a match. Notably, he was the last umpire to eject Billy Martin, in 1988, before the famed fiery Yankees manager’s untimely death in 1989.

Although Scott became a respected umpire and an official within the umpires union, there were still tense moments. During a labor dispute in 1999, he received an anonymous threat to be reported by a colleague.

“I wasn’t intimidated, but I was disgusted at how low some would stoop,” Scott writes.

At this time, however, he also saw signs of change. He recalls two one-on-one conversations with referees Derryl Cousins ​​and Rick Reed in which they said they were aware of his sexuality and it made no difference to their professional relationship or their friendship. And in the early 2000s, he went to dinner with his team of umpires, and one member, Ron Kulpa, suggested it was time to let the elephant out of the room and move on.

A key milestone came in 2013, when Scott and Rausch got married. A year later, Scott gave an interview to Referee magazine and felt comfortable with the publication printing a photo of him and his husband, in which Rausch was identified as his “longtime companion”. Referee was a subscription-only magazine with a small circulation, but Outsports noticed the story and did their own interview with Scott. When the article was published in December 2014, Scott says he “opened the floodgates publicly.”

Scott describes the response as overwhelmingly positive. During spring training 2015, he received a warm response from the MLBers – a hug from Marlon Byrd, a handshake from Joey Votto. He also received a lot of fan mail.

“I’ve received overwhelmingly positive emails from all over the world, from people from all walks of life,” says Scott. “Gay, straight, bisexual. I heard from many people,” including a Toronto father who told his two daughters, then 10 and 8, that “it was one of the first steps in growing up in a society where it won’t be news, where people will be accepted and move on.

During a game in 2017, Scott suffered a concussion when Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo hit a ball that hit him in the mask. Although Scott was conscious, he was carried off the pitch and taken by ambulance to hospital – he knew it was time to retire. Scott always keeps an eye on developments in baseball. He’s being encouraged by minor league pitcher Solomon Bates, who was released earlier this year. This summer, Scott participated in eight Pride Night events at MLB ballparks, and got to throw the first pitch on occasion.

As for the future, it is sure that it won’t be long before an active player follows in his footsteps.

“We don’t know the situation,” he said. “It could be like the minor league player [Bates] who is out, maybe he is stepping into the big leagues… or maybe there is a player who is already in the big leagues and decides to come out one day. But it will happen.

MLB umpire Dale Scott: ‘I wasn’t intimidated by threats to impersonate gay’

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