It’s interesting how one phrase can be misunderstood.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted an interview with David Denson, first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league club in Helena, Montana. Denson announced he was gay, which has rightfully received the support of the Major League organization.
Denson felt it as a “giant relief for him.” He also stated the following:
“I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”
This is great for MLB, publicly acknowledging diversity. It’s historic, but unfortunately, there’s one problem.
It’s not the announcement. It’s the title.
The Sentinel stated Denson was the first baseball player to announce he was gay in affiliated pro baseball. The meaning of the word “affiliated” is grey.
Affiliated is defined as related; being in close formal or informal association. In terms of baseball, affiliated means a team part of the Majors. The minor league teams are sponsored by the major leagues. In return, they develop prospects for the potential call to the show. This is where the phrase “affiliated pro baseball” gets complicated.
Baseball-Reference.com identifies affiliated teams as both the majors and minors. If this is true, then David Denson is not the first man to come out publicly.
Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1970s, told the Dodgers’ front office, teammates and even sports writers of his orientation. He wasn’t as graciously accepted as Denson was. Burke quit baseball because of his orientation and officially announced he was gay in 1982, but his legacy carries on.
If affiliated baseball includes the majors, then we’re all in trouble. This opens up the can of worms everyone fears, especially as how society views the world now.
We want our news to be quick but also accurate and valid. In the process, clarity was lost in the shuffle.
The Sentinel ran the Denson piece without clarity. Yes, Denson is the first man to come out publicly in this era. But he’s not the first man to do so while actively playing. That historical event belongs to Burke.
There’s no point in correcting it now, which is the worst part in all of this. Doing so nullifies the effort the Sentinel put into covering Denson’s announcement. ESPN ran the story as well, which snowballed into everyone running it.
Even worse, the legacy of Burke is only heightened. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan documented Burke’s troubles playing with the Dodgers in a piece released Monday, August 17.
Our problem lies with getting it right. And we didn’t. We’re all to blame because we all made a simple mistake. That mistake was going off a record that didn’t define the organization clearly. Getting the phrase “affiliated pro baseball” misconstrued as professional baseball is a glaring mistake as both a writer and a reader.
Think of it as a chain. When one person does something and others believe it, clarity doesn’t matter. It’s ironic, considering in any form of media that clarity should be the No. 1 principle.
Granted, it’s an honest mistake. It’s all too easy to confuse “affiliated” with professional. But when affiliated IS professional, then we are at fault.
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