Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
September 6, 1973, Vol. XVIII, No. 36
From pitch to bitch
by David Tipmore
As soon as Geraldo Rivera cakewalked across the Leroy Street playground diamond last Monday night, you knew the charity softball game between the Sixth Precinct cops and the Mattachine Society gays had turned into the Press Putsch of the Year. Forget about warming up gay-straight relations in the Village or that $2 donation for retarded children you shelled out. Who really cared about the softball game, when all you could see from the bleachers were a chorus of tv cameras and a reporter with a copy of (More) hanging out of her purse?
Of course the media couldn’t really be blamed for taking over the event. It’s Summer, after all, and the news needs a little nudging now and then. Besides, the game was a big bomb as far as the score goes (the cops won, 15-0), and if it takes a Press Putsch to rev up the whole thing, why not
And so there they were, Geraldo umping at first with five packs of Trident in his mouth. There was Dick Schaap of Channel 4 News, taking his lumps as home plate ump. There were CBS and the Post and a One-to-One girl in an almost-Adolpho, beaming benignly as Rivera gave his 100th interview.
“Philosophically, I’m directly between these two,” Geraldo said, gesturing toward the cops and the gays, as the almost-Adolpho announced that the proceeds were going to “Geraldo’s special charity — a home for retarded children.” And why not? Wasn’t the press there to lend a little glamor and fun to the whole charity thing?
Well, sure, if fun means watching a fat CBS man in a monogram jacket shove a mike up a mute three-year-old and ask for a comment. Another “fun” part of the Press Putsch is watching Geraldo plug his own charity on the Eyewitness News. But then why not?
Of course, the best part of the game turned out to be the bleachers, which provided a road-show of suppressed hostility that couldn’t be matched by 50 dumped dinner dates. Suddenly, sitting alone in the Maginot Line between the straights and gays, you got this vision of Moses steering solo through the parting of the Red Sea. From both sides came waves of bitching: housewives bitching about not being able to get a frankfurter with onions, gays bitching about how terribly campy the whole thing was.
“Hey Alice! Up here,” one gay yelled.
Alice look up. “In the bleachers? Oh! How campy!” she said and she was up and away.
The essential point of the game, as Frank Toscano of the Police Benevolent Association described it, involved promoting the warmed-up relations between gays and cops which had come out of the Sixth Precinct-Mattachine rap sessions. Now Toscano is a sincere man, and as he watched the game and told you about wanting to “overcome the ‘busters’ in the community,” you believed him. Except at that very moment, right as Toscano was talking, two Bronx hairdos were going at it, hatcheting the gays who were hatcheting back about all the “Fertile Fannies” over in the straight section of the bleachers. You began to wonder.
But then again, the whole phenomenon of Company Baseball had never been under this kind of pressure before. There, right out there on the macadam, was the possible secret to solving community problems! Good old Company Baseball. Could it be? No more billy clubs in the Limelight? No more flashed badges in dark back seats? And all because of this lovely congeniality over home plate?
But wait. Right now, at that very same home plate, “Mama” Jean Devente, the Mattachine manager, is fighting with Dick Schaap and Tom Knoble of the cops because the cops are using an aluminum bat. Foul and illegal and discriminatory against the women on the Mattachine team, growls Mama, but Schaap doesn’t see it that way. The aluminum bat is an official softball bat, reasons Schaap, because it says so right here — on th Sixth Precinct aluminum bat.
“There is no communication between gays and cops,” screams Jean.
“She’s full of crap,” grunts Knoble, and there you have it. Forget the lovely congeniality over home plate.
The rest of the game consisted of the press putsching from pitch to bitch, hunting for hostility by wheeling cameras into eye-line view of home runs. Of course by the end of the sixth it didn’t really matter if you were staring into the back of a mike man. By that time the game was so boring most people were reading copies of the Mattachine Times which had been loose-leafed through the bleachers.
And then suddenly, around the fifth or sixth inning, Rivera executed an exit that out-pomped the Pope. Suddenly Dick Schaap deserted his umpireship and tried for a few last-minute interviews before he raced off uptown. Suddenly the reporter in the purple pantsuit put the copy of (More) inside her purse and mikes were packed up and cameras stopped and…the event was over before it was over.
Who cared, after all, about Frank Toscano, who was running around trying to fire up flagging spirit, or Mama Jean, down-in-the-mouth in the gay bull pen? The media were leaving, and without Geraldo Rivera, what’s so fascinating about a 15-0 game?
Which makes you wonder again. Who was the game really for? Community relations? The gays and the straights? The retarded children? Or the 11 O’Clock News?
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 24, 2011