Are the Cincinnati Reds ready for a gay player?
Nearly every major professional sports franchise has been asking themselves this exact same question for months now, and any logical, educated person would unequivocally check yes in that box. There may not currently be any players that have come out as active members of the roster, but since baseball is so reliant on its numbers, using the law of averages, there’s a reasonable chance that someone, at some point in the Reds locker room didn’t have a thing for women. It should not be a big deal, but ultimately, our society dictates that it is a topic that must be broached.
Over the course of baseball history, much bigger social ills have pressed their cleats into the neck of Americana as we know it. First, there were to be no blacks in baseball; heaven forbid, they manage a ballclub. Then, it was women that had no place in the “man’s game.” Both of those assumptions were quickly debunked as nothing more than fallacies created by an ignorant society.
As you may have heard by now, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Just three short months later, Larry Doby became a member of the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first African American to play in the American League. Greats like Josh Gibson, the “black Babe Ruth” and Buck O’Neil never got their opportunity to let their light shine against the best that ever lived. Had Gibson played in the Majors from the on-set, we may be talking about Johnny Bench as the second best catcher of all-time. Eventually, the walls most organizations put up in order to keep the legendary Negro Leaguers out, crumbled in victorious fashion.
Johnnie B. Baker began his career as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves before making a name for himself as a Los Angeles Dodger. The majority of the public knows him by his nickname, “Dusty.” He was the first black manager the Reds ever had and his success will be difficult to top. Before he even arrived in the Queen City in 2008 (was hired at the end of ’07), he had tremendous success in other cities. In 2002, he was a game away from hoisting the World Series trophy as the manager of a San Francisco Giants team that included Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. He would never get that close again.
The following year, he attempted to break the Cubbies out of their 94-year slump come October, but one pop-up down the left-field line later, and Steve Bartman had made history, and not in a good way. Amidst rumors that he himself had ruined the golden right arms of young phenoms Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Baker was virtually run out of town. He nearly reached the top of the mountain again in Cincinnati, but he was befallen by injuries to key players (Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto) and inexperienced rosters. Although his criticisms were aplenty during his tenure, Baker took the Reds to the Postseason three out of four years, (2010-2013) the first time since the immortal Sparky Anderson that anyone had accomplished such a feat.
Women’s role in America’s Pastime extends far beyond being the emotional backing of their professional husbands. “A League of Their Own” is a wonderful description for the baseball purist, but beyond lacing up cleats and buttoning up bonnets, it was widely accepted that women did not belong in the front office of what is a “man’s game.” To this day, there has still never been a female to hold the General Manager position within an organization, but, the Reds have had a female owner; Miss Marge Schott.
Ironically enough, Schott was not exactly in favor of a majority of progressive ideals. She was not exactly enthusiastic about black ballplayers or gays in general, but in theory, her role was a difficult one for any woman to come by.
The name Sue Falsone may not mean much to most around the game, but she is the first female trainer to be employed by a Major League club. Currently, she works for the Los Angeles Dodgers (at the forefront of innovation again) and her praise is sung on a daily basis; her co-workers and athletes cannot get enough of her.
What all these examples show is one central theory: that as long as you can perform your task up to an exceptional level, baseball will always find a place for you. Someday, and it is more than likely in the near future, a ball player will announce he is gay; and initially, there may be an uprising, but 50 years later, it will all have been a blip on our radar and eventually, an accepted part of American society.