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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Holmes: The dark secrets and mysterious death of baseball great Chick Stahl

Cy Young: “Players may come and go, but there are few Chick Stahls.”

In 2012 there are exactly zero major league baseball players who are openly homosexual. Statistically there are certainly many who are. But none feel comfortable enough to have come out openly while actively playing the game at the big league level. Sadly there’s a stigma attached to homosexuality, especially when it comes to athletics, where men are supposed to be macho. Where they are supposed to be meeting women in bars and hotel rooms. 100 years ago the stigma was even more significant.

Stahl and David Murphy became friends, how close isn’t exactly clear, but Murphy’s lifestyle points to a man conflicted by his own sexuality. The United States in the first decade of the 20th century had a hang-up about sex, let alone sex between men. Murphy and Stahl kept the details of their personal relationship between the two of them. But Collins – his teammate, roommate, best friend – knew. He knew how tortured Chick was, but he didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t tell the policeman when he was asked what Stahls’ final words meant.

...But there was more than baseball that was troubling Stahl. His had a wife (a wife!) and she wanted a family. He had responsibilities to her, but he also felt his heart pulling somewhere else, somewhere he couldn’t go in the light of day. His forbidden relationship with David Murphy was going to have to end now. Now that he had a wife and was the boss instead of just one of the boys, Chick could no longer live that other life. Or so his unhealthy mind told him.

“I couldn’t help it. I did it. It was killing me and I couldn’t stand it,” he groaned to Collins as he died.

“I did it.”  What did he do? Did he end his relationship with David Murphy that spring? After his wedding just four months earlier it was probably the first time Chick had seen David. Did they have a fight, or did they reluctantly agree that their relationship must end? No one will ever know for sure. But something tortured Stahl to the point that he emptied that bottle down his throat, releasing acid into his system that ate away at his body and killed him withing 15 minutes.

Repoz Posted: August 18, 2012 at 09:07 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Bruce Markusen Posted: August 18, 2012 at 09:46 AM (#4211247)
Well done, Dan Holmes.
   2. AndrewJ Posted: August 18, 2012 at 10:05 AM (#4211255)
Intriguing, but I'd like to see the documentation and research.
   3. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 18, 2012 at 10:16 AM (#4211260)
Wow. What a read.
   4. AROM Posted: August 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM (#4211264)
I didn't realize David Murphy was that old.
   5. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: August 18, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4211265)
24 kids!
   6. bobm Posted: August 18, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4211267)
No Chick-fil-A lead-in?
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: August 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4211316)
I didn't realize David Murphy was that old.


That was the part that was throwing me off a bit.

In 2012 there are exactly zero major league baseball players who are openly homosexual. Statistically there are certainly many who are.


Is it correct to apply the rate of homosexuality among the entire race to an individual profession? Not saying that there are no homosexuals in MLB, but the idea that the rate is consistent across all professions strikes me as ludicrous...you are telling me that only 10%(or whatever the number is) of male hair dressers are homosexual? If it's clearly not true one way, then how can it be true in the other direction?

Excellent article btw.
   8. Bob T Posted: August 18, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4211368)
The SABR Bioproject article on Chick Stahl summarizes the various theories about the suicide.
   9. isaacc7 Posted: August 18, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4211378)
Yeah, I'm willing to bet that that professional baseball players doesn't constitute a random sample. There is every reason that there is a much lower percentage of gay professional athletes than the general population.
   10. A Random 8-Year-Old Eskimo Posted: August 18, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4211413)
I agree. I think it's likely, albeit not certain at all, that there are less gay ballplayers than there are in the general population. A primary reason that this may be the case is that some gay athletes self-select out of playing sports at increasingly competitive levels, because of uncomfortableness with the casual homophobia (which is getting better, but for players coming up a decade ago...) and the increased stress of thinking that it's likely they'll have to spend the majority of their 20s and 30s in the closet.

However, even if that's the case, if about 3% of the male population is gay, given the 750 or so professional ballplayers, there are probably at least a half dozen gay players in the majors at any time, and very possibly more.
   11. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 18, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4211422)
so why in female sports do all the athletes have to deal at some point with the lesbian innuendo?

only gay women can be jocks but only heterosexual boys can be jocks?

kinda weird logic
   12. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 18, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4211423)
However, even if that's the case, if about 3% of the male population is gay, given the 750 or so professional ballplayers, there are probably at least a half dozen gay players in the majors at any time, and very possibly more.

Totally agree.
I keep hoping some recent player will come out as part of his HOF speech.
Not at all a Piazza joke / reference; I don't care who it is. Barry Bonds gets in, introduces his partner or whatever, heads explode all over the world. Utterly awesome.
   13. A Random 8-Year-Old Eskimo Posted: August 18, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4211450)
only gay women can be jocks but only heterosexual boys can be jocks?

If you want to have sex with men, you have feminine tendencies. Men who are good at sports* are masculine. If you have sex with women, you have masculine tendencies. If you're a woman who wants to play sports,* you have masculine traits. So men who are good at sports must be masculine, and hence not gay, but if you're a woman who wants to play sports, you're similarly masculine and must want to have sex with men. That's oversimplified, but that's the line of thinking that leads to that conclusion.

* Of course, this doesn't apply to all sports. For females, it applies to sports that are perceived to be masculine. I would be surprised if female gymnasts or swimmers have to deal with the lesbian innuendo as often as female soccer, hockey, basketball and softball players do. Similarly, males who play sports that are perceived to be feminine, such as gymnastics or figure skating, have to deal with homophobic slurs, in comparison to basketball, hockey and baseball players, who are just assumed to be entirely straight.
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: August 18, 2012 at 03:11 PM (#4211451)
so why in female sports do all the athletes have to deal at some point with the lesbian innuendo?

only gay women can be jocks but only heterosexual boys can be jocks?

kinda weird logic


It's society. We have long accepted, if not encouraged gay female athletes. I mean if you are female at 15 years old playing a sport, someone, somewhere is going to accuse you of being gay. It's part of the innuendo and part of the culture.

Nobody is saying only on either end of the spectrum. I was just saying that a profession isn't going to match evenly with the population, others are pointing out the self selection bias which is a viable reason. I mean if you are an athlete and you are gay, it's probable that you think if you are openly gay, it would hurt your chances as a professional ball player and then the choices(from your viewpoint) become stay in the closest and play, or go to another field and be yourself. Would you really want to be in a profession that has very long odds of you making it, and then have to be somewhat miserable as you hide who you are?

Totally agree.
I keep hoping some recent player will come out as part of his HOF speech.
Not at all a Piazza joke / reference; I don't care who it is. Barry Bonds gets in, introduces his partner or whatever, heads explode all over the world. Utterly awesome


agreed. I'm a former marine and my military buddies are split on the issue of gays in the military, but it also makes it easier the fact that one of my roomates from the marine corps has come out (even got married this year) so it's hard to pull the gays can't serve in the military argument, when you have a gay guy right there in the midst of the argument who has served. Once it gets out that "so and so" is gay, then it becomes easier to find people supporting them saying "we never had a problem with him in the locker room" or other stuff.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 18, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4211459)
gents

i understand why folks draw the conclusion

i am pointing out that the logic stinks
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 18, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4211469)
I've posted my favorite quote on the subject before: when asked whether he could tolerate having a gay teammate in the clubhouse, Mike Mussina replied, "I assume I already have."
   17. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4211472)
Really interesting, but as Andrew said above, I'd like to see the support behind the article.

Seems to me that questioning the referent of "I did it" here is a bit of a stretch. Most likely it just meant "I drank the carbolic acid." I did it myself, in other words.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: August 18, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4211483)
I've posted my favorite quote on the subject before: when asked whether he could tolerate having a gay teammate in the clubhouse, Mike Mussina replied, "I assume I already have."


More than a decade ago, Mike Timlin said he already had, and it wasn't a problem.*

Unless it's a guy like A.J., I think the first time an active player come outs will be a non-issue in the clubhouse and around the league. As long as it's a guy who has a decent reputation as a pro, I don't think the vast majority of players will care.

* That such a comment came from a devout Christian like Timlin is kind of odd, since he later said he didn't like the Red Sox appearing on Queer Eye.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: August 18, 2012 at 04:14 PM (#4211486)
* That such a comment came from a devout Christian like Timlin is kind of odd, since he later said he didn't like the Red Sox appearing on Queer Eye.


If he's a true devout Christian, then he wouldn't have a problem with another individual being gay, but at the same time he doesn't feel the need to shove one's sexuality in someone else's face. Or it could be, that like most people with taste, he realized the show was utter garbage and who would want their team associating with something like that?

   20. SoSH U at work Posted: August 18, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4211505)
If he's a true devout Christian, then he wouldn't have a problem with another individual being gay, but at the same time he doesn't feel the need to shove one's sexuality in someone else's face. Or it could be, that like most people with taste, he realized the show was utter garbage and who would want their team associating with something like that?


I'm not calling him out or anything. It just strikes me funny that the only player I know of who has gone on record that he played with a gay teammate, and that it wasn't an issue, is the same guy who later was uncomfortable with his teammates appearing on a silly gay-centric show.

   21. Lassus Posted: August 18, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4211510)
#13 is very thoughtful.

At this point, I'd be more inclined to go with "people are only slightly brighter than cinder blocks regarding sexual orientation issues."
   22. bookbook Posted: August 18, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4211565)
One of the devout Mormons I knew was very comfortable being friends with the flamboyant gay in our group. Which I guess just reinforces the silliness of the "some of my best friends are ___" defense, but also is impressive.

#16, Mussina is smart, and spent his college years in Northern California - both may give him a leg up in understanding this issue over the deep south rural high school kids and South Americans who are a substantial part of the major league player group.
   23. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 18, 2012 at 07:12 PM (#4211594)
I'm not calling him out or anything. It just strikes me funny that the only player I know of who has gone on record that he played with a gay teammate, and that it wasn't an issue, is the same guy who later was uncomfortable with his teammates appearing on a silly gay-centric show.


That show always made me really uncomfortable because it seemed to function mainly as a confirmation of every stereotype anyone ever had about gay men. I understand that "gay men are well-dressed and well-groomed" isn't the most hateful stereotype out there, but still.

One of the devout Mormons I knew was very comfortable being friends with the flamboyant gay in our group. Which I guess just reinforces the silliness of the "some of my best friends are ___" defense, but also is impressive.


I know two gay Mormons (well, one semi-openly gay Mormon and one got-to-be-gay-but-I-can't-prove-it Mormon) who are as devout as one can be and still be gay. It's a weird situation for them to be in, but they both seem to have worked it out in their own minds. That F. Scott Fitzgerald line ("the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function") is very true. Smart people can work things out and keep going, and not worry too much about the contradictions that the messiness of human beliefs and actions so often causes.
   24. clowns to the left of me; STEAGLES to the right Posted: August 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM (#4211610)
personally, my thoughts on the whole queer eye stereotype thing is...taste like crab, talk like people.

also, mormons are quite gay.

and i think if you're looking for an athlete in professional american sports to come out as gay, the sport you should focus on is probably basketball. more than any other sport, basketball selects its athletes primarily by size, and it just seems to me that it's easier for some 6'10 gay man who's good at basketball to become a professional than a 6'2 gay man who's good at football or good at baseball to work his way through college and/or the minor leagues before coming out.
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: August 18, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4211620)
That show always made me really uncomfortable because it seemed to function mainly as a confirmation of every stereotype anyone ever had about gay men. I understand that "gay men are well-dressed and well-groomed" isn't the most hateful stereotype out there, but still.


Agreed. It just struck me as wrong because of that. Mind you I wouldn't have liked it no matter what, because there is absolutely nothing I find appealing about an entire show based upon a makeover.



and i think if you're looking for an athlete in professional american sports to come out as gay, the sport you should focus on is probably basketball. more than any other sport, basketball selects its athletes primarily by size, and it just seems to me that it's easier for some 6'10 gay man who's good at basketball to become a professional than a 6'2 gay man who's good at football or good at baseball to work his way through college and/or the minor leagues before coming out.


Good points, but I doubt it. 1. much smaller population pool 2. highly black cultural bias's, it's even harder to come out in that culture than in a southern white culture.(there is a reason that Obama's stance on gay marriage hurt his standing among black voters--and was about the only thing he could have done to hurt his standing among black voters) 3. tighter group dynamic, making it arguable that coming out will potentially hurt that dynamic. Baseball is the sport that I think has the best chance of coming out because the actions of the individual aren't nearly as dependent on the team. Although football has the advantage of a large roster size to help out, but again the dynamics of the sport makes it a little more difficult to come out.
   26. clowns to the left of me; STEAGLES to the right Posted: August 18, 2012 at 08:30 PM (#4211634)
Good points, but I doubt it. 1. much smaller population pool 2. highly black cultural bias's, it's even harder to come out in that culture than in a southern white culture.(there is a reason that Obama's stance on gay marriage hurt his standing among black voters--and was about the only thing he could have done to hurt his standing among black voters) 3. tighter group dynamic, making it arguable that coming out will potentially hurt that dynamic. Baseball is the sport that I think has the best chance of coming out because the actions of the individual aren't nearly as dependent on the team. Although football has the advantage of a large roster size to help out, but again the dynamics of the sport makes it a little more difficult to come out.
i think you underestimate the rate of homosexuality among black men. and i also think it's notable to say that among gay black men, masculinity tends to be a characteristic that is emphasized much more than it is among gays of other ethnicities.

so, considering the demographics, that actually seems to me (and i;ll admit that i could be wrong about this) like it'd support my assertion of basketball being more likely to attract gay athletes than other sports.

and likewise, i think the smaller rosters would help a gay athlete feel more comfortable about coming out as an active athlete. it's a lot easier to get 14 guys behind you than 24 or 52. just as an example, john amaechi came out to his teammates towards the tail end of his career with major issues.


numbers-wise, i'd agree with you, though. there are ~400 players in the NBA at any given time, whereas there are 1500 active football players and 3-4000 active baseball players.
   27. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 18, 2012 at 11:42 PM (#4211708)
If you want to have sex with men, you have feminine tendencies. Men who are good at sports* are masculine. If you have sex with women, you have masculine tendencies. If you're a woman who wants to play sports,* you have masculine traits. So men who are good at sports must be masculine, and hence not gay, but if you're a woman who wants to play sports, you're similarly masculine and must want to have sex with men. That's oversimplified, but that's the line of thinking that leads to that conclusion.

* Of course, this doesn't apply to all sports. For females, it applies to sports that are perceived to be masculine. I would be surprised if female gymnasts or swimmers have to deal with the lesbian innuendo as often as female soccer, hockey, basketball and softball players do. Similarly, males who play sports that are perceived to be feminine, such as gymnastics or figure skating, have to deal with homophobic slurs, in comparison to basketball, hockey and baseball players, who are just assumed to be entirely straight.


In 48 years of playing pool on many levels, and of the thousands of players I've been acquainted with, I can't think of one male player, from local talent to international pro, who's ever even had a whispering campaign about his sexuality, or any player whom I'd ever thought for a second might be gay. Not saying there weren't or aren't any, but if so they've sure kept it under wraps.

OTOH there are several top lesbian players on the women's pro tour, and more than a few open lesbians on the regional tournament level, and nobody seems to care one way or the other. This may be because there were almost no women in the sport before the gay movement began to make big strides. Whereas the culture of the formerly all-male pool scene was as hetero as can be imagined, and it's hard to believe that this hasn't carried into the present to a great extent, on the advanced if not on the purely recreational level.

I wonder whether the same thing might be true of golf. Any golfers out there who might know something about that?
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: August 19, 2012 at 12:29 AM (#4211723)
I wonder whether the same thing might be true of golf. Any golfers out there who might know something about that?


not that I consider pool or golf to be a sport... but I've just always assumed every golfer was a closeted gay. I mean isn't the whole point of golf is to get out of the house, away from the wife to spend several hours with your closest 3 male friends.
   29. Steve Treder Posted: August 19, 2012 at 01:11 AM (#4211728)
I mean isn't the whole point of golf is to get out of the house, away from the wife to spend several hours with your closest 3 male friends.

Well, based on most golfers I know, going golfing is really just a euphemism for going beer-drinking.

Same as, of course, going fishing, going camping, going to a ball game, going to play softball, whatever. I don't think it's much more complicated than that.
   30. God Posted: August 19, 2012 at 06:42 AM (#4211751)
It's a good read, but like others, I'd like to see the documentation. Also, there are a couple of WTF moments in the article. He calls Billy Hamilton "the biggest name in American sports," which is so bizarre as to be off the deep end. Hamilton was certainly a star in his day, but was considered only the second or third best player on his own team. (Granted it was a perennial pennant-contending team.) Hamilton's contemporaries never really realized how good he was; he wasn't inducted into the Hall until 1961, after the first baseball encyclopedias had provided the irrefutable proof. And he played in an era when people like Jim Corbett and Cap Anson were around. It's sort of like calling, say, Chase Utley or Adrian Gonzalez the biggest name in American sports today.

Holmes also writes: "...baseball, a game that was still very much growing as the national sport, especially in areas like Fort Wayne which were miles from a major league city." in fact, though, baseball had been firmly established as the national pastime for decades by 1900 -- and the first game in MLB history was played in 1871 in, you guessed it, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
   31. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: August 19, 2012 at 10:25 AM (#4211830)
personally, my thoughts on the whole queer eye stereotype thing is...taste like crab, talk like people



Does...does everyone else just know what this means? Google does not help me.
   32. CrosbyBird Posted: August 19, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4211863)
Does...does everyone else just know what this means? Google does not help me.

It's from a South Park episode. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is a secret plot by crab people to weaken masculinity so as to conquer humanity.

Wikipedia article.
   33. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: August 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM (#4211926)
21st century lenses in pursuit of 21st century dollars
   34. chisoxcollector Posted: August 19, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4211929)
Sorry, wrong thread.
   35. Bob Evans Posted: August 20, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4212601)
The article is long on innuendo ("forbidden relationship") and practically devoid of anything concrete that would lead me in the direction that innuendo would have me go.

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