That Pallone is gay is the secret he poker-faced behind his major-league umpire's mask for more than a decade--until fired by Bart Giamatti in 1988. Writing with veteran sport-bio collaborator Steinberg (Born to Referee, coauthored with Jerry Markbreit, 1988, etc.), the cashiered ump now spills the spicy beans in an autobiography full of frank talk about baseball and the gay life. As outspoken as baseball memorists come, Pallone begins with a chapter entitled ""A Bullet in the Neck""--a hot flash of indignation at his firing (for ""low ratings"" and ""concerns"" over his alleged involvement in a gay-sex ring, claimed Giamatti; simply for ""being gay,"" says Pallone). The author's Waterloo, we learn, capped a life full of professional and personal strife, with his dream of becoming a big-league ump fulfilled only after training rigorously in the minors, and then snatching a job as a ""scab"" during the umpires' strike of 1978--a move that alienated many colleagues for much of his career. And life in The Show, despite its financial and social rewards, was no picnic, as Pallone's pride and temper pitted him against numerous players and managers, culminating in a celebrated 1988 shoving incident with Pete Rose that resulted in Charlie Hustle's 30-day suspension. Pallone's baseball-talk fascinates, with sharp commentary on many big. leaguers and on the ways of umpiring; but the real kicker here is his parallel, and explicit, account of coming to grips with his homosexuality and of building a gay life inside the closet--a life fraught with exhilaration, fear, glamour (affairs with a film star and a ballplayer, the names hidden here), and tragedy (his great love died in a car crash)--until rumors forced him out of baseball and into this book. Engagingly bold, self-serving, and brimming with bristly baseball lore--but will fans put up with Pallone's steamy depictions of making out--and more--with a string of handsome hunks?