When my pal Alison Gordon died earlier this year, she was acclaimed as the first woman beat writer in the major leagues.
I laughed when I saw a photo that circulated with the obit – of her interviewing a mostly naked Rick Bosetti in the Jays’ locker room.
He was the last person I expected to see representing enlightened ballplayers, politely covering his crotch in front of a woman.
During my time, Bosetti was the self-proclaimed champion weenie wagger in baseball.
Alison took over the beat for the Toronto Star in 1979, the season after I quit the same gig with the Toronto Sun.
A lot of abuse was chucked at her by the adolescents of summer. The players on one team, the Texas Rangers, tried to bar her from their locker room.
They failed. Because even in Texas, the law was on the side of Alison and any other woman with press credentials.
I was there — 37 years ago Saturday — when the courts threw open the clubhouse doors to women.
It was all thanks to Melissa Ludtke, of Sports Illustrated, who had filed suit against Major League Baseball, the Yankees and the City of New York.
Ludtke’s claim was they discriminated against her by excluding women from the locker rooms at Yankee Stadium during the 1977 World Series.
Federal judge Constance Baker Motley ruled in Ludtke’s favor on September 26, 1978.
That night, the Yankees’ clubhouse turned coed after the game against the Blue Jays.
Ludtke was not there. But six women were: five reporters from local TV stations and one writer.
I stood back from the tumult to take in the scene, which was more interesting than the Jays 4-1 loss, their 97th of the year.
I watched a couple of giggling naked men – Yogi Berra, then a 53-year-old coach, his dick somewhere beneath his pale gut, and Cliff Johnson, a 6-4, 220-pound backup catcher – streak from the shower and jostle their way around the room.
The rest of the Yankees found this hysterical.
I watched one TV reporter, from some tiny station upstate, interviewing a naked Willie Randolph, trying to make eye contact but constantly stealing downward glances.
She wasn’t even a sports reporter, only there for the tabloid value of the moment.
I talked to another TV reporter, Linda Sutter, who said she loved the game and desperately wanted to cover baseball.
But she was hardly welcome, and easily conned by the idiot players she encountered that night.
Here’s what she told me after her work was done:
“I’m delighted to be here. Unfortunately, I got off to a bit of a bad start. I was standing outside the door and this guy came up behind me, grabbed me, and dragged me in here.
“I didn’t know who the hell it was – it was Jay Johnstone – I didn’t know him and I feel that if I’m going to be in here, working, I should know who I’m dealing with.
“That’s what Reggie (Jackson) told me: ‘If you’re going to be working in here, you’ll have to gain the respect of the players. And you’ll get that by knowing them and asking intelligent questions.’
“Right now, my biggest fear is asking a dumb question.”
I wised up Linda Sutter, telling her Reggie Jackson didn’t know an intelligent question from a fungo, that all he did was suck up to the network TV types and treated anyone who couldn’t advance his career like shit.
I’d witnessed his act with a young radio reporter in Toronto, deliberately saying “fuck” every third word so the kid’s tape was useless.
I asked Sutter why she would want to cover sometimes hostile, usually naked, and always foul-mouthed ballplayers.
“I’m over 30, and there’s nothing I haven’t seen or heard. Look, this is my game. When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be a shortstop when I grew up.
“I stopped playing baseball only because they wouldn’t let me play Little League. I grew up in New England and I’ve always been a Red Sox fan.
“Last week, when the Red Sox were here, I read a piece about how they reacted to their losses. It described how Yastrzemski sat at his locker and sobbed into a towel, how Remy sat with his head hung low.
“I thought to myself, damnit, I’d like to do that story. I’d like to be here to see it and describe it.”
I’m not sure what became of Linda Sutter. I found a 1995 obituary for a 54-year-old former New York journalist of the same name. The details fit. But I can’t confirm it.
I do know what happened to Rick Bosetti.
His undistinguished baseball career ended in 1982. His claim to fame was that he periodically unzipped during a game and pissed in every outfield in the American League.
He said he hid his dick behind his glove.
After being released by his last major league club, the Oakland A’s, Bosetti returned to his hometown of Redding, in northern California.
A Republican, he was elected mayor – twice.
A longer more detailed account of this and many more stories are told in my book: The Expat Files: My Life in Journalism.