Get to Know Pro Baseball's Gay Pioneers
BY Michelle Garcia
March 21 2014 5:00 AM ET
Billy Bean's first game during his rookie season was undoubtedly a major hit. The Detroit Tigers outfielder tied the record for the number of hits in a player's first game with four in 1987.
Bean went on to play with the L.A. Dodgers and the San Diego Padres until he left the league in 1995. Four years later, Bean came out, sparking a media frenzy. He was on the front page of The New York Times, got interviewed by Diane Sawyer, and was even in HBO's comedy series Arli$$. Though he caught flak for somewhat encouraging gay players to stay closeted, Bean said a lot had to happen in the league in order for a gay player to comfortably come out. He said he was "ready to be the face" of a movement that demanded diversity education for ballplayers in college and the minor leagues, and other elements that could help a player come out.
"What’s the risk of implementing same-sex partner health benefits on a pro baseball contract?" he asked in a 2003 interview with The Advocate as his book was being released. Creating a gay-friendly league included more than what's going on while on the field. “I think we just need to get the dialogue out there and not limit it only to the playing field but also open up the front office, the stadium workers, the scouts, the umpires — and then, soon, the baseball players."