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The Rainbow Center hosts Dave Pallone
November 9, 1998
Dave Pallone put his personal life on hold for 18 years in pursuit of a childhood dream to work in baseball. During his career as a baseball umpire in the National League, Pallone endured "living a double life" as a gay man who had not yet gone public with the fact. Every day, he said, he lived in fear of losing his job.
On the field, the players are only concerned with winning. Yet the baseball team owners are homophobic, said Pallone, who told his story October 29 in the Student Union Ballroom. At the end of the 1988 baseball season, The New York Post alleged that Pallone was part of a teenage sex ring. Rumors circulated about his homosexuality, together with allegations that he couldn't handle the pressure as an umpire.
In 1987, Pallone was one of the top 10 major league umpires. After coming out of the closet the following year, he was named the third worst umpire in the National League, and was fired.
Despite the discriminatory basis of his dismissal, Pallone accepted a large settlement from the National League, intended to discourage him from pursuing legal action. Pallone said he was scared, because he did not have enough money to "fight the million-dollar baseball business" and did not think the gay community cared about sports enough to help him.
In 1990, his autobiography Behind the Mask became a New York Times bestseller. Pallone received many letters from other homosexuals who empathized with Pallone's difficulty in living a double life.
Pallone described the challenges of having clandestine romantic relationships, in which photos of a partner cannot sit proudly on a desk. He says many people do not realize how ordinary rituals of romance must be minimized and hidden from family and friends when relationships must be kept secret.
Sexual orientation accounts for 40 percent of suicides, he said.
Pallone said he now welcomes the opportunity to give lectures and to write, teaching others to "respect who you are," instead of umpiring. He said he has found respect for himself by meeting people and receiving heartfelt letters from those he has inspired with his autobiography.
Even though he had to give up his privileged life and childhood dream as a major league umpire, he has turned his life into an example for educating others about the need to show sensitivity toward homosexuals and about the realities of discrimination.
The lecture was sponsored by the Rainbow Center.