About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Baseball Coming Out in Mystery Fiction

In my last post I reviewed Safe at Home by Alison Gordon. She wrote a series of mysteries featuring Kate Henry, a sports writer for a Toronto newspaper, who covers the Toronto Titans, a fictional major league ball team.

While the mystery in Safe at Home involves the search for a serial killer the more compelling story involves one of the players, Joe Kelsey, who seeks out Henry wanting her to write a story to let the world know that he is gay.

It is a testament to the reluctance of big league ballplayers to make known their sexual orientation that no active major leaguer has yet to make a real life announcement he is gay though 26 years have passed since the book was published.

In Safe at Home there was a mixed reaction to the news among Kelsey’s teammates. A few were very accepting. A few were very negative. Most were unsure of how they felt about Kelsey coming out.

Many in the sports media of the book were uncomfortable with being required to cover the story. It meant they would have to think about a societal issue in their reporting on baseball.

What surprised me were the number of players and media in the book who wished he had not come out as it disturbed their sense of team. They would have preferred he not be a distraction by staying in the closet.

Gordon had personal experiences as a woman that helped her write the story.

As the first woman sports reporter to be a beat writer for a major league ball team she faced many of the same situations as Kelsey.

Too many players and management did not want a woman sports reporter.

Ballplayers were as uncomfortable with a woman in the locker room as they would be with a gay man.

Devout Mormon, Barry Bonnell, a Blue Jays outfielder did not want Gordon in the locker room asserting she was “sick” and was attempting to “spy” on naked ballplayers.

I read Toronto manager, Roy Hartsfield, would not answer her questions for a time and encouraged players not to talk to her.
Alison did face a couple of situations unlikely to be encountered by a gay ballplayer. In her autobiography, Foul Ball: Five Years in the American League, she said she was offered $200 by an unnamed ballplayer if she would sleep with him. It was further reported that his teammates had offered him $500 if he could get her to sleep with him. Several reports said some players would deliberately come out of the shower room naked and stand around her while she was conducting interviews.

Gordon gained grudging acceptance. Major Leaguer Manager Earl Weaver calmed one fear by stating that she was not a “pecker checker”.

Considering how Jason Collins of the NBA was treated when he came out some of the more crass comments faced by Gordon would be unlikely today. Still it would take courage for there would be massive media attention and some negative comments.

The immediate media coverage today would be more intense as we live in a very demanding news world. Still I expect the scrutiny would fade quickly. As Collins stated in an article he wrote for The Players Tribune:

After a couple weeks, the media coverage shifted off of me because there are only so many ways you can write a story about having a gay teammate. It went back to being about the team and how we were making a push for the playoffs

Gordon could appreciate how a gay ballplayer would hate his sexual orientation being the story rather than his performance in games. In her first year covering the Blue Jays she was constantly a story as she visited each major league park in the American League. In Safe at Home Gordon, through Henry, alludes to the discomfort produced when you are an actual distraction from the game.

One of these days an active major league ballplayer will come out of the closet. As a sports reporter for 39 years I expect reporters will now be the most accepting group in dealing with a gay big league ballplayer. The primitive attitudes of yet again too many media members in Safe at Home and some of Gordon’s fellow reporters when she started covering the Blue Jays, I cannot call them colleagues, have changed. The reporters of the 21st Century would see a player’s sexual orientation as a personal matter that should not affect an athletic career.


  1. You draw such an interesting parallel, Bill, between Gordon's experience as a female reporter, and the experience of coming out as gay. In both cases, there are stereotypes and prejudices, rather than the central question: can s/he do the job well? Not very long ago, I watched an interview with a professional basketball player, and the question of gays in professional sports came up. He said that probably most pro athletes have had gay teammates, whether they knew it or not. His closing remark was that the real question ought to be, 'Can he play the game?'

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The world has changed a great deal during my life. Focusing on ability has been one of the greatest advancements.

  2. Very interesting information on Alison Gordon's experiences as a reporter and in the locker room. Thanks for writing about this, Bill.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Being a pioneer is never easy.

  3. Bill, earlier you noted that you had problems commenting on my blog (could get a profile entry to allow a comment). I did respond later on that same post -- don't know if you saw that. Here is what I found.

    I looked into the setup for blogger comments, which had been set to "Anyone". The suggestions were to change the selection to "Registered Users" (which allows for OpenID), so I made that change. I hope that helps.

    1. TracyK: Still cannot find a way to get a profile. I cannot understand as I am able to comment on every other blog I read. Grrrrrrr.....

    2. Sorry, Bill, I just saw your reply. I will do some more looking around for information.