(This story was published in 2007).
By: Ross Forman
Dave Pallone has been out of baseball since 1988 and yet the mail still comes on a regular basis. Mostly it’s e-mail correspondence, though he still gets some snail-mail letters, often with autograph requests for some of the umpire cards he appeared on in the 1980s.
And he also still gets hate mail, about once a month.
“I usually read them, though sometimes I just delete them. I think it’s important to know why the person hates me,” said Pallone, the only openly gay former major league baseball umpire.
Since publishing his New York Times’ best-selling autobiography (“Behind The Mask: My Double Life In Baseball) in 1990, Pallone has received more than 700,000 letters. Pallone worked 18 years as a professional umpire, the last 10 in the National League. (Today’s major league umpires are not split by league as they were in Pallone’s era; they now umpire in the National and American League.).
He lives in Albuquerque with his partner of 11 years, Keith Humble.
“Dave Pallone is a very happy person and is very fortunate to have found true loves of his life. One who passed away and one now who I hopefully will be with for the rest of my life,” Pallone said. “I enjoy speaking to young people and adults across America; I haven’t vanished into thin air. I don’t make a lot of public appearances because I choose not to, that being (appearances that are) part of the Gay Games or part of a Pride parade. And that’s simply because I choose not to. But I still feel that I am an important part of my community. But when needed and called upon, I would want to be a part of it.”
Pallone speaks across the country about sexual orientation, focusing on respect for everyone. He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and has been a keynote speaker at conferences and other corporate events for Fortune 500 companies. He also is on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s preferred speakers list for diversity, and has brought his presentation to athletic departments around the country. In 1995, Pallone and Martina Navratilova appeared on stage together for a conversation at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, marking the first time that two prominent, openly gay people in professional sports appeared on stage.
“I am one of the lucky ones who can say they’ve seen the differences from 1990 to 2007. Yes, there still is bigotry and hate in America, even on college campuses, though certainly not [as bad] as it was,” he said. “I’ve seen that the young people of today want all people to be treated equally, and they’re adamant about all students being treated equally. The majority of today’s students are touched by the stories I tell them; the majority of them want to make a difference; and, they’re knowledgeable enough to know that there are young people out there today who really have struggled with their sexual orientation and just want to be accepted. I am really encouraged with the young people of today.”
That said, Pallone added, “we still have a long way to go until the day comes when our society stops vilifying [homosexuals]. People who are LGBT are Americans, too, and we need the same rights.”
Pallone said there’s still a long way to go before a male athlete from one of the big four sports (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) comes out while still active.
“It seems that our society knows that are male athletes who are out there who are gay, but none have come out. I think society would accept them, but there’s just too much pressure on them if they came out,” Pallone said. “I think we’re still pretty far away [from an active player coming out on his own accord], as terrible as that is to think.”
Pallone said it likely will be within the next five years before a player comes out while active, “but I thought that same (time-frame) back in 1995.”
“I never thought we’d be in 2007 without an openly gay male athlete.”