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Pallone, Dave (b. 1951)  
 
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Because of the prevalence of in the culture of men's professional sports, umpire Dave Pallone remained closeted until he was outed and forced out of baseball. Since leaving the game he has become an advocate for glbtq rights.

David Pallone, born October 5, 1951 in Waltham, Massachusetts, grew up in a middle-class family in the adjacent city of Watertown. His father, Carmine Pallone, an immigrant from Italy, was a factory worker and also an ardent fan of the Boston Braves. While still in his teens, Carmine was offered a contract to pitch for the St. Louis Browns, but with the Great Depression in force, his father forbade him to accept it and told him to take a less risky job as a vegetable picker.

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Carmine Pallone taught his son to pitch and took him to Red Sox games (the Braves having decamped to Milwaukee in 1953). Dave Pallone dreamed of pitching in Fenway Park, thinking, as a teen, that realizing his father's unfulfilled dream "would really make [his] dad proud."

Pallone pitched for his high school team, but his skill was not equal to that of his father. There was no hope of a college athletic scholarship, let alone a contract as a professional baseball player in his future.

In the summer of 1970 Pallone was working two jobs as a stock boy in a grocery store and a caddie. During a baseball game, he heard an ad for the Umpire Development Program in Florida. Having missed the particulars, he called the Red Sox office for more information and learned of another opportunity, a training course for umpires at the Ted Williams Baseball Camp in nearby Lakeland, Massachusetts.

Pallone excelled in the course and felt that he had found his calling. At the age of nineteen he entered the Umpire Development Program and, upon completing it, earned a contract to work in the minor leagues in 1971.

Life in minor league baseball has never been glamorous, and in the early 1970s it was even less so than it is now. Players on teams from small cities and towns competed before relatively meager crowds in stadiums that were generally far from state-of-the-art. Low salaries, paltry allocations of meal money, "fleabag hotels," and bus travel are frequently mentioned in reminiscences of the era. For umpires, it was much the same, minus the bus trips; they had to provide their own transportation.

By this time Pallone had realized that he was gay but also recognized that coming out would jeopardize his prospects of pursuing a career in baseball.

In 1975 Pallone was offered the opportunity to work in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and he jumped at the chance since being selected meant that an umpire's skills were well regarded and that he might be on his way to the big leagues.

Pallone continued to advance and was promoted to Triple A ball, the highest tier of the minor leagues, at the start of the 1976 season.

Feeling pressure to develop a heterosexual relationship, Pallone began dating a woman. Hoping that he would somehow learn to feel a sexual attraction and have a successful and socially conventional partnership, he proposed marriage to her on Christmas Eve 1977, a decision that he immediately regretted. He quickly called off the engagement and, he stated, felt "angry, guilty, sorry, [and] ashamed" for having caused pain to a good and decent person.

Although Pallone stated in his memoir, Behind the Mask (1990), "At that point I didn't know for certain that I wanted to be with a man for the rest of my life," it was clear that the realization was dawning on him. Nevertheless, he did not explore his feelings, but rather devoted himself to his goal of becoming an umpire in the major leagues.

His opportunity came in an unexpected and tumultuous way. In 1979 major league umpires went on strike before the season. Because the game could not proceed without officials, umpires from the minor leagues were offered contracts. Thus did Pallone reach the majors—and also become branded as a "scab."

Replacement umpires received a guaranteed two-year contract, after which their continued employment would be based on evaluations of merit. Confident of his abilities, Pallone signed on.

During the strike, Pallone worked in the National League as a crew chief, the manager of the umpiring squad and the ultimate arbiter of calls on the field. He and his crew were in a difficult position: players, especially some of the game's stars, attempted to intimidate or undermine their authority by repeatedly and conspicuously disputing their calls. Pallone resolved to stand firm in the face of opposition, and he assured the members of his crew that he would also stand up for them.

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