Striking Out


Last week the sports world was rocked again. This time— hard as it is to believe— the capo di tutti capi of the Mets was accused of not keeping his bat and balls in his bullpen. Shocking!

The alleged offender, Mets General Manager Steve Phillips, admitted to sleeping, and generally playing around, with his receptionist. He admitted to doing the same with, oh, about 650,000 other women, though he denies charges of sexual harassment.

Sportswriters were shocked and disgusted not only that Phillips slept around, but that— my God!— he cheated on his wife! I can see how adultery is shocking in an industry where gang rape, biting the flesh of sex partners, beating women senseless, wearing women’s undies, and crack attacks are commonplace. Check off the ones that apply to the Mets. Poor Phillips must have confused himself with a star. The Mets suits were probably initially confused about what to do with the guy. After all, he’s the only sports figure in recent memory who’s actually participated in consensual sex.

I know these things. In 1991 I found myself the only female reporter traveling with the Mets. I remember it like it was yesterday. In my nightmares it still is— and I wake up sweatier than a hot flash in a sauna.

My editor at the time, a sadist (and I’m working for him again!), informed me that I was going on the road with the Mets. That day. Wow! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. On the plane to Chicago I imagined myself drinking beer and hanging with the players and sportswriters. How great— on the road, where practically no woman had gone before.

When I arrived, I called my newspaper’s baseball writer in his hotel room to introduce myself. “What the &*¢% are you doing here?” he cordially inquired. “Covering whatever you aren’t,” I answered. “I cover everything,” he yelled. And he was right. He was big enough to cover the sun, for God’s sake. I mean, the man had eaten a couple of hot dogs in his time.

Next day he called and offered to take me to the clubhouse. Great! He was coming around. I figured the clubhouse was the place you hung around with other sportswriters— you know, where you drank the beer. Wrong. Why do they say clubhouse when they mean locker room?

Large Larry walked me into the clubhouse and led me to the middle of the room, where the Mets— on cue— dropped their pretenses along with their towels. I decided to sit down before I fell down. I should point out that sitting, in a room full of perfectly naked perfect men who are standing, puts a girl at a real disadvantage. When I woke from what I’d prayed would be an irreversible coma, I reconciled myself to the fact that the clubhouse is the only place reporters interview these clowns. When you interview Brad Pitt, he’s not going to be naked. (Okay, life is not fair.)

It went downhill from there. No press credentials were ever issued for me at any game. No player would talk to me. The sportswriters wouldn’t let me sit with them. “We’re having breakfast with our friends,” they said when I attempted to join the group table. Because I was banned from everything, I started writing about the Mets’ lives on the road— who got flowers, who was buying lingerie in the hotel shop, who was drunk. I wrote about the hole punched in the ozone by the lethally moussed and sprayed hair of the Mets’ groupies in St. Louis. Everything got me in more trouble with the team.

One day I found myself alone in the elevator with Vince Coleman. I asked him what he thought about women in the locker room. He leaned in real close between the fifth and sixth floors, and said, “Honey, we men— we like to show off our units.”

“You show each other pictures of your condos?” I joked. He laughed: “You’re not so bad as they say.”

But he never spoke to me again. A year
later Coleman, Dwight Gooden, and Daryl Boston were accused of gang rape. The police didn’t press charges, natch, and baseball kept them employed. After a brief suspension to seek prayer counseling or something, Steve Phillips, too, is back at work.