MMajor League Baseball supervisor Dale Scott made history in 2014. He came out as gay, the first MLB umpire to do so. It was such a big deal that Jimmy Fallon joked about it on The Tonight Show – “Well, he says he’s out, but the other umps said he’s safe. So now they have to look at a replay.”
But during Scott’s 37-year career in pro baseball, his identity was no laughing matter. He feared the consequences of being fired, especially in his early seasons, which coincided with the AIDS crisis. Now retired, Scott reflects 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’ve got a whole 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 have told my story that it has helped them a lot in their lives.”
He remains the only MLB umpire to come out publicly while on the job, although it is clear in the book that he is not the only gay umpire in Major League history.
No active player on MLB’s roster has come out to the public—although there have been two who have done so after their careers ended: the late Glenn Burke, and MLB vice president of social responsibility and inclusion Billy Bean, who wrote the introduction to Scott’s book. . Bean shows a painful memory from his last season, in 1995, when he played for the San Diego Padres. He experienced the death of his partner and felt unable to tell his partners.
Scott wonders when an active MLB player will come out, as athletes in other leagues have done, such as Carl Nassib in the NFL and Jason Collins in the NBA.
“We had it in football, basketball, soccer,” says Scott. “Baseball is a little bit behind the eight ball. I’m not sure why.”
Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Scott knew he was gay in junior high school. Although his high school prom date was a female classmate named Leslea, he had come to grips with his identity by then.
“I told myself I wouldn’t look in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and lie to myself,” he says. “I also realized that I had to play the game, the game of society. I couldn’t do the rounds in 1979 saying: ‘Guess I’m gay.’ It wasn’t going to fly.
“It’s not because I was ashamed or felt guilty or something, that I didn’t come out sooner. I understood society, I understood the norms of the time.”
Scott says he has lived two lives as a result of those norms. “Even before I got into football, there was Dale, the funny, happy guy that everyone knew, and Dale, who went to the only gay bar in Eugene, Oregon,” he says.
His debut as a professional umpire – in the minor leagues in 1981 – coincided with the AIDS outbreak. He writes that he lost several friends and acquaintances to the disease, and about hearing homophobic comments from fellow umpires. Misinformation about facilities 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 limitations of the umpiring schedule, which involves sharing locker rooms and hotel rooms. He was afraid they would refuse to work with him anymore if colleagues found out he was gay.
The proposal schedule had an unexpected benefit in protecting his identity.
“I wasn’t working in the city where I lived, but I was always on the road, out of town,” says Scott. “It wasn’t like an office job, where you’re in an office with co-workers, and go out for a drink, or there’s a Christmas party for the employees and their spouses. I didn’t have to do that kind of schedule. Not having to work in the city I lived in was a big advantage for me in many ways.”
In 1986, Scott’s home life changed dramatically. That year was 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 reluctant to let his colleagues know: Rausch’s sister, an airline stewardess, was his date while he was working spring training in Arizona.
“She thought it was a great idea,” says Scott. “It wasn’t like someone was sniffing around thinking I was gay. I was just doing it proactively.”
At first Scott 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 that took some time to digest.
Meanwhile, he continued to build his resume, working his first playoff series in 1995, then his first World Series in 1998. Three years later, he worked the dramatic 2001 Fall Classic after 9/11 . Before Game Three, he got to chat with George W Bush at Yankee Stadium, where the president threw out the first pitch.
Scott’s book contains two unusual items that are popular with readers – a list of all the umpires he has worked with, and a list of everyone he has ever kicked out of a game. Notably, he was the last umpire to eject Billy Martin, in 1988, before the feisty Yankees manager’s untimely death in 1989.
Although Scott became a respected umpire and an official within the umpires union, there were still tense times. During a labor dispute in 1999, he received an anonymous threat that a colleague would fire him.
“I wasn’t intimidated, but I was embarrassed at how low some of them would stoop,” Scott wrote.
Around that time, however, he also began to see signs of change. He recalls two separate one-on-one conversations with umpires Derryl Cousins and Rick Reed in which they said they were aware of his sexuality and that it made no difference to their professional relationship or friendship. And in the early 2000s, he went out to dinner with his umpiring staff, and one member, Ron Kulpa, suggested it was time to let the elephant out of the room and move on.
A key step 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 himself and his husband, in which Rausch was identified as his “longtime companion”. The Referee was a subscription-only magazine with a small circulation, but Outsports noticed the story and conducted its own interview with Scott. When the article was published in December 2014, Scott says it “opened the floodgates publicly.”
Scott describes the response as overwhelmingly positive. At spring training in 2015, he received a warm response from MLBers — a hug from Marlon Byrd, a handshake from Joey Votto. He also received plenty of fan mail.
“I received emails from all over the world that were overwhelmingly positive, from people from all walks of life,” says Scott. “Gay, straight, bisexual. I heard from a lot of different people,” including a father in Toronto who told his two daughters, who were 10 and eight at the time, “that this was one of the first steps to growing up in a society like no other. more news, where people will be accepted and move on.”
During a game in 2017, Scott suffered a concussion when Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo was hit by a ball that hit him in the mask. Although Scott was conscious, he was carted off the field and taken to an ambulance – he knew it was time to give up. Scott still keeps his eye on developments in football, however. It was inspired by minor leaguer Solomon Bates, who came out earlier this year. This summer, Scott participated in eight Pride Night events at MLB ballparks, receiving first pitch several times.
As for the future, it is certain that it won’t be long before an active player follows in his footsteps.
“We don’t know the story,” he says. “He could be like a minor league player [Bates] that came out, maybe he goes to the big leagues … or maybe there’s a player who’s already in the big leagues and decides someday to come out. But it will happen.”