LGBT History Month 2017: Billy Bean, Major League Baseball Player

October 4: Billy Bean, Major League Baseball Player Photo © Arthur Pardavila III

“We’re not here to change the way people think. We’re here to give them the opportunity to make better decisions.”

William “Billy” Bean is the second Major League Baseball player to come out.

Born in Santa Ana, California, the eldest of six kids, Bean showed talent for baseball in high school. His team won the state championship. He received an athletic scholarship from Loyola Marymount University where, in his junior year, he was recruited by the New York Yankees. Though he was offered a lucrative signing bonus, he chose to finish college and was twice named an All-American outfielder.

When Bean was 24, he married a woman he met in college. They divorced three years later. In 1986 Bean made his Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers. During his career, he also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres and the Kintestsu Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

While playing with the Padres, Bean came out to his family. He came out publicly in 1999, after retiring from the sport.

In 2014 Bean was appointed Major League Baseball’s first-ever Ambassador for Inclusion. In this role, he provides guidance and support for LGBT players. He has also developed educational training on homophobia and has presented at annual industry events. In an interview, Bean said he likely would not have quit baseball as early in his career if a support system for gay players had existed at the time.

Bean lives in Los Angeles. He discusses his personal and professional life in his best-selling memoir, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball.”

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons. Each day in October, a new LGBT Icon is featured with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources.

In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders. They selected October because public schools are in session and existing traditions, such as Coming Out Day (October 11), occur that month.