“The Umpire is Out: Calling The Game
and Living My True Self”
The publishing info:
Univ. of Nebraska Press
312 pages; $34.95
Released May 1, 2022
The publishers website
The authors website
At the Baseball Hall of Fame
The review in 90 feet or less
A kiss isn’t always just a kiss.
Danielle Goldey and Meredith Kott went to a Dodgers game on Aug, 8, 2000, shared their affection with a passionate smooch whilst in their Dodger Stadium seats during a seventh inning celebration, and, soon enough, eight security people descended on them to show them the exit. Those complaining said kids ought not be watching this stuff.
Patt Morrison of the L.A. Times would write about it weeks later under the headline: “A Smooch Too Far.” Bill Plaschke also verified for the Times’ sports readers that this was in fact a French kiss, “but witnesses say it was nothing blatant or inappropriate.” Good thing we had impartial witnesses. Plaschke also had a quote from Goldey: “If we started disrobing, started feeling each other up, that would be inappropriate. We knew there were kids around. We know there are things you don’t do in public. My mother raised me to know right from wrong.”
(Morrison also noted that Goldey’s mother was in the real estate business and sold several Dodgers their homes over the years. Gotta know when to play that ‘Do you know who my mom is? card.)
The couple went to their lawyer, who talked to the Dodgers, who instead of trying to talk their way around it, went the extra yard. Then-team president Bob Graziano not only issued an organizational apology, but donated 5,000 tickets to gay-rights groups, and worked it out so that Sept. 6 would be the first Gay and Lesbian Night at Dodger Stadium, co-hosted by GLADD and the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. The couple got seats for that game behind home plate.
What’s now called the Dodgers’ Pride Night has evolved into a prideful moment on the promotion schedule – it happens this Friday when the Dodgers take on the New York Mets, followed by fireworks. We are starting national LGBT Pride Month that honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. It was established as a national event in 2000, and expanded by President Obama in ’11 to its current name.
The staff at Outsports.com – a sponsor of the event — reminds us that LGBTQ trailblazer Glenn Burke will be honored this time. Family members of the late Dodgers outfielder will throw out the first pitch. Last year, the Oakland A’s did the same honoring of Burke on their Pride Night.
(Catch up on your Burke history with the review of “Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke:
The first Openly Gay MLB Player and Inventor of the High Five” from 2021).
This year, as a rainbow-colored “LA” logo will be etched on the ground behind the pitcher’s mound, players will wear jerseys with the Dodgers script logo decked out in coloring scheme that would make the 1980s Houston Astros envious.
On hand for pre-game ceremonies includes former Dodgers outfielder and MLB ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean, transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox and Military Hero of the Game Lieutenant Belita Edwards. Somewhere, Dodgers co-owner Billie Jean King will have a presence.
Dale Scott will be there too.
The retired umpire who came out in 2014 as the first openly gay MLB umpire — also the first active male official to come out in MLB, the NFL, NBA or NHL — was present and accounted for in 2018 Pride Night to throw out the first pitch. That was a year after he retired following 33 MLB seasons and nearly 40 overall in pro baseball, as he knew it was for his better health after suffering frequent concussions over the years (he worked exactly 1,000 games behind home plate).
The Dodger Stadium inclusion of Scott, who turns 63 in August, lines up nicely with the release of a gratifying autobiography about his life and career that is one of the more enjoyable and poignant reads of this baseball season.
When sorting out a list of what to include in the annual book reviews, one thing that drew us toward investing in this came from a recent post on Outsports.com by Ken Schultz that included: “When I tell you that Scott’s autobiography made me legitimately laugh out loud numerous times in the first chapter alone, that in and of itself is one of the highest tributes I can give … One of the best things I can say about the book is that Scott and co-author Rob Neyer seamlessly transferred his honest and self-effacing voice to the page and made it look effortless. In reality, I know how hard that is to do and it goes a long way toward making the decades of baseball stories he tells that much more entertaining.”
Over the last few decades, it feels as if there are three sorts of “umpire tells all” we’ve come across:
== The 1982 book by Ron Luciano, “The Umpire Strikes Back,” which he unleashed so funny stories it led to a TV gig with NBC Sports on MLB games as well as three sequels (“Strike Two” in ’84, “The Fall of the Roman Umpire” in ’86 and “Remembrance of Swings Past” in ’88). Those all came after the 1998 book: “You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too! Confessions of an Umpire With an Attitude” by Durwood Merrill. That may have opened the door on the jovial demeanor of umps we weren’t always allowed to see, some of which was also in the book, “Three and Two! The Autobiography of Tom Gorman, The Great Major League Umpire” in 1979 (as told to Jerome Holtzman).
== In 2014, two books came out — “They Call Me God: The Best Umpire who Ever Lived” by Doug Harvey, and “Called Out but Safe: A Baseball Umpire’s Journey” by Al Clark (the first Jewish umpire in AL history). Matter-of-fact, how it works, experiences we’ve had, etc. Same with Bill Nowin’s 2020 book, “Working A ‘Perfect Game’: Conversations with Umpires,” which we reviewed. And some of that as well with “As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires” by New York Times writer Bruce Weber in 2009.
== Dave Pallone’s “Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball,” which came out first in 1990, was updated in 2002, pulling a New York Times review excerpt: “The controversial umpire speaks out about the game and his gay life … brutal candor!” Pallone may have been the “first” gay umpire to talk about it, but it wasn’t by choice, more of being forced into it going back to how his counterparts resented him for crossing a picket line to umpire in the late ‘70s and then stay for a decade.
(And on the topic of umpires and barriers broken, there is “Unbelievable! The Life Journey of Art Williams, Baseball’s First Black National League Umpire,” by Dr. Audie Williams, independently published, released May 21, 188 pages, written by his youngest brother).
Scott, who has umpired in three World Series, six league championship series and 12 divisional series, goes an authentic route that combines three things: Self-deprecating humor, a seriousness about his work, and the current hot topic of LBGTQ.
The best example we found:
In 2005, Scott is in the middle of a messy situation around the ejection of Angels pitcher Brendan Donnelly for using a foreign substance on his glove. Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson, tipped off about Donnelly’s glove from one of his players who was a former Donnelly teammate, called for the inspection as Donnelly was taking his warmups. Angels manager Mike Scioscia tried to divert the ejection by having Donnelly change gloves before he actually threw his first official pitch. Scott, as the crew chief, takes us through how he no choice but to eject him, no matter how much Scioscia protested.
The story expands to how Scioscia came out the next inning to point out the Nationals’ pitcher had a glove with strings that were too long and could be a distraction. Scott had to agree, based on the rules, and took care of that.
Which led to some exchanges that Scott was nice enough to document:
Scioscia: “That’s fucking bush league, Frank! You’re better than that!”
Robinson: “You’re a fucking cunt.”
(Scott later writes about the tension: “Because there was never much chance of someone actually getting hurt, we all sort of enjoyed that one.”)
The Society of American Baseball Research put out it own version of the story — how did Robinson know? Donnelly got a 10-game suspension (reduced to eight games) and Scioscia and Robinson had a one-game suspension.
And what was Scott’s eventual take-away from the whole thing?
“The next day in the L.A. Times sports section, above the fold, I saw a photo of me and (umpire Tim Tschida trying to get between both managers. In this photo – and frankly the angle wasn’t doing either of us any favors – I looked like a walrus. I had so much fucking fat underneath my chin – or should I say, chins – that they seemed to be multiplying like guppies … the only thing I could hear in my mind was the Beatles, “I Am The Walrus.’”
(The photo isn’t included in the book. We tracked it down above).
So on one of his days off that summer, Scott found a plastic surgeon to undergo liposuction. Before Scott and his partner Mike Rausch went on a European vacation after the season, Scott also got a face lift. A few years later, he admits he got a Bosley hair transplant.
“So now, I can check off the ‘You’re So Vain’ and ‘stereotypical gay man’ boxes,” he writes to finish the chapter.
One more revealing moment about how Scott treasured his work comes when he discusses his involvement in the 2009 ALCS between the Angels and Yankees.
“The first three games, for our perspective anyway, were uneventful. The fourth game was a shithouse,” he writes.
In Game 4, the Angels tried to pick the Yankees’ Nick Swisher off second base. Scott calls him safe, then looks up at the video replay and realizes Swisher was really out. There is no video review/manager challenges then.
A few moments later, umpire Tim McClelland rules Swisher was out for leaving second base too early trying to tag up on a fly ball and go to third. The video board (and TV) replays again suggested McClelland erred, even if it, in effect, made up for the first blown call.
An inning later, the Yankees’ Jorge Posada is in a rundown between third and home, as teammate Robinson Cano also arrives at third. Both are on the same base. Both are confused and step off the base. Both are tagged.
Writes Scott: “It should have been a double play, which was obvious to everyone watching on TV … but (McClelland) didn’t realize Cano was off the base when tagged and left him safe at third. I didn’t see Cano off the base when he was tagged, either, although I wasn’t looking for it. I was behind second base looking down the baseline toward third while keeping an eye on the batter-runner Swisher and if he was continuing on to second. Everything happened with a lot of moving parts. … The Yankees ended up winning 10-1, but all anyone wanted to talk about us was us.”
The next day, in Game 5, Clark had what he calls “a wacker” at first base — Johnny Damon is called out to end an inning. Replays showed Scott erred again. On the Fox broadcast, Joe Buck is talking now about all the blown calls in the series.
Writes Scott: “I’m not sure that anyone who has never umpired or officiated knows how low you feel when you miss a call, even moreso when it’s in a postseason or extremely important regular-season game. It haunts you, follows you, and can (unfairly) brand you not only for the rest of your career but well after you’ve left the field.”
He referred back to how he had made “10 nutcutter correct calls” in the 2001 World Series Game 3, but those are now “wiped out, forgotten with just one big miss. Fair? Not really. Inevitable? Unfortunately yes .. All of us know it’s part of the package when we sign up for this.”
That off season, three key umps – Marty Springstead, Rich Garcia and Jim McKean – were fired by MLB.
“We didn’t see it coming and we were not happy,” Scott explains. “It felt the moves were made out of spite.”
Scott doesn’t mince words when he comes to how he felt about Jimmie Lee Solomon, the executive vice president of baseball operations, who made the decision, or the explanation by Rob Manfred, then the vice president of labor relations and human resources.
Just like an historic kiss, you can’t just give lip service to something or someone you feel has been wronged.
How it goes in the scorebook
After further review, a grateful thank you.
If we were going to Friday’s Dodgers-Mets game – or happened to be in his hometown of Portland when he and Neyer will appear at world-famous Powell’s for a signing on June 8 — we’d want to let him know how much we appreciated the education and entertainment, context and comedy, and true human feelings spread out along the way. Nothing sugar coated or trivialized. The importance of the umpire and how they feel about what they do needs to be told better, like this.
A late May blurb about the book in this New York Times roundup: “It’s a rare victory for the blue.” Agreed.
We’re also curiously appreciative of an appendix that includes five pages of every person he’s ejected in his career — his first in the MLB was the Angels’ Doug DeCinces in 1986 for arguing a called third strike. Plus a list of every umpire he’s ever worked with (partnered with Derryl Cousins and Joe Brinkman the most — 2,123 times, and interesting to see how he was with Augie Donatelli and Jocko Conlan more than 1,000 times, and Joe West just once).
You can look it up: More to ponder
== In a Q&A with the Pandemic Book Club, co-writer Rob Neyer explains:
What’s your book about?
Eighty percent great baseball stories from a fascinating baseball guy, 20 percent a story nobody’s read before from a great person.
Why this book? Why now?
I got lucky, because Dale Scott’s story is just as unique now as it was seven years ago when he first took the field as an “out” MLB umpire. He’s still the only one who’s done that! In that respect his story remains as relevant now as then, especially considering that there is not a single out player in affiliated professional baseball, which remains both disheartening and inscrutable.
Who had the biggest influence on this book?
To some degree, the book simply continues a long lineage of umpire memoirs, all of which I’ve read (I think). At least subconsciously, all those books influenced my work. Also subconsciously, I hope a bit of Ed Linn rubbed off on me. His books with Bill Veeck and Leo Durocher are so great because you don’t feel you’re reading an Ed Linn book; you feel you’re hearing the voices of Veeck and Durocher, even though of course Linn must have done a great deal of work to shape not only the narratives, but the voices as well. If you’re reading Dale’s book and you suddenly think, “Oh, Rob must have written that” … then I’ve failed, at least in that particular spot. Whatever talent and work I might bring to this book, they should always be in service of Dale’s story and his voice.
== Scott talks to the MLB Network’s Hot Stove League crew with Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds:
== An excerpt of the book published on Outsports.com focuses on a night in the late ‘90s when he joined other umpires at a bar in Tempe, Ariz., during spring training:
One of those nights, Derryl Cousins and I were sitting at a table off to the side. Out of the blue, Derryl said: “Scotty, I know you have a different lifestyle than most of us. I just want you to know I think you’re a great guy, and I would walk on the field with you any day. So it’s not an issue.”
Now my full defense mechanisms fired up immediately. For one thing, I’ve got no idea why this came up. So I just said, “I appreciate that, Derryl.” But I didn’t really admit to anything; I just took the compliment and moved on to something else. Later that spring, Rick Reed did the same thing, and I responded the same way, not really responding.
But if those guys knew? It seemed likely that just about everyone else did too.
In my first full season as a chief, in 2002, my crew was Jimmy Joyce, Jeff Nelson, and Ron Kulpa. But we all had single weeks off during the first month of the season. So our first game on the field together, as a complete crew, wasn’t until May 7. And our first opportunity for a crew dinner was May 18 in San Francisco. After our Saturday afternoon game, we went to Morton’s, one of our favorite hangouts.
After we’d ordered and the wine had been poured, Kulpa pipes up, “Okay, chief. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Dale, we know you’re gay. We don’t care. We want to be able to joke and bust balls this season without walking on eggshells.”
At that, Jimmy grabbed the wine bottle and tipped it up, making it look like he was guzzling it, while I’m pretty sure Jeff did a spit take across the table. I froze for a second and then smiled, not too surprised Ron would make a statement like that, since he basically has no filter.
I was actually happy about Ron putting it out there.
== From Palm Springs Life magazine in December 2014: