Remington: Looking ahead to Billy Bean’s role as MLB Ambassador for Inclusion

From Alex Remington at The Hardball Times on August 25, 2014, with mention of SABR member John Thorn:

During the All-Star break, Major League Baseball made a momentous announcement, naming Billy Bean as its first Ambassador for Inclusion. (This is Billy Bean, the former outfielder, not Billy Beane, the current general manager of the Athletics.) “Inclusion” is a broad term, but the mandate was clear: Bean, who came out in 1999 after his 1995 retirement, is the only living gay major leaguer, and his job will be to help pave the way for LGBT people within the sport to feel comfortable coming out. He is the first professional hired by a major league with the mandate to improve conditions for gay players.

That may be because baseball feels it has some catching up to do. Seventy-seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the major leagues, baseball appears to be lagging behind the NBA and NFL. Pro basketball player Jason Collins came out in 2013 and football lineman Michael Sam came out in early 2014, before the NFL draft; now baseball and hockey are the two major team sports without an active openly gay player.

Bean acknowledges that Sam and Collins may have provided baseball with an impetus. “I’m proud of baseball,” Bean said in a telephone interview. “I think the bravery and courage of Jason and Michael are going to make it better for everyone. Maybe seeing those examples is what made baseball call me.”

Bean was not the first major leaguer to declare himself gay. That would be Glenn Burke, who came out in a 1982 magazine article, not long after his 1979 retirement. Burke died of AIDS in 1995, two decades before the league hired Bean. His sister, Lutha Burke, attended and spoke at the All-Star Fanfest ceremony at which Bean was appointed.

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Originally published: August 25, 2014. Last Updated: August 25, 2014.