The story of professional baseball player Bean, lost in the closet of his homosexuality for so many years, who finds his honesty only after he leaves the game.
Bean always knew he wanted to play sports, but his sexual orientation was much more of a mystery. Writing with the startled earnestness of a man who unexpectedly finds himself in a confessional, Bean remembers never quite understanding the fuss about girls in high school or feeling much fulfillment in marriage. On the other hand, his need to please his coaches “bordered on the pathological,” perhaps from desire to win “the approval I’d been denied by my biological father.” Once in the major leagues, he knew the approval of his teammates was equally important. Considering the general homophobic atmosphere of the clubhouse, Bean wasn’t about to confide his mixed feelings to his teammates—he couldn’t, after all, even confide them to himself. When he did recognize and accept his sexuality, he kept it quiet, at a dreadful emotional toll—he couldn’t talk about the death of his boyfriend, which by terrible coincidence occurred the same day Bean was told he was being sent back to the minors—a toll he doesn’t wish on any other young gay player. On this he’s clear, but elsewhere there is ambiguity. He says that “the greatest game on earth should be leading the way for equality, as it did in the days of racial integration” but notes later that “the change didn’t occur because management had the best interests of black athletes at heart.” He describes the “malicious, anti-gay climate of the game” but says, after he came out, that “the bonds of teammates, I was learning, were far stronger than prejudice.”
Professional sports, like life, is messy and complex, but Bean has done athletes a service by relieving them of the gay-bashing mantle.