Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Billy Bean

Gay Major League Baseball Player

Forty-six year old Billy Bean was a high-scoring outfielder in a baseball career that lasted from 1987-1995. He played for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. When he joined the Detroit Tigers in 1987, he tied a MLB record with four hits in his first major league game.

He acknowledged that he was gay in a front page story in the New York Times in 1999. Bean went on to write a book, “Going the Other Way: Lessons from a life in and out of Major League Baseball.” Bean is only the second former major league player to reveal his homosexuality; the late Los Angeles Dodger and Oakland Athletic Glenn Burke is the other.

When Bean left behind his life as a professional baseball player, he let go of a dream he had pursued since childhood. But his life as a closeted gay man created so much stress that he chose to give up his career. As a closeted player (not even his agent knew he was gay), he had divorced his wife and secretly moved in with his lover, Sam. When Sam died of AIDS, Bean was so frightened of his secret being revealed that he didn't attend his lover's funeral, a tragic decision that ultimately led to his coming out. He became the center of attention of a gay and lesbian community looking for ways to break down barriers of homophobia in sports. Bean, however, was blunt about how strong that barrier remains – he doesn't foresee any professional baseball player coming out while continuing to play.

He says of his book, "This is not a sad story about a victim of homophobia, or baseball mistreating me. It's about what it's like to live in the closet and try to realize a dream under those restrictions." Throughout the book Bean also reveals his love of the sport, while exploring some of the darker side of baseball, especially the humiliation of being sent to the minors. It is a tale of self denial turned around into self acceptance.

Bean now has a successful career in real estate in Miami, Florida. He is also a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.

Review by Brad Ausmus (all-star catcher, Houston Astros):

"Millions of American boys dream of playing Major League Baseball. Just when Billy Bean's dream was coming true, self-realization and tragedy came crashing down on him. Through it all, he had a remarkable will and the mental fortitude to withstand both the nightly pressures of playing in front of 35,000 fans and living a secret 'forbidden' life. In the end, this gut-wrenching story is an amazing triumph of character over consequences. Billy Bean is an inspiration."

280 pages. Da Capo Press (2003).

1 comment:

  1. Billy's most unusual credit was in the early 20-teens, when he appeared as a regular panelist on the cable re-boot of "I've Got a Secret." Unusual because all the panelists were gay!