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Koufax strikes out: the legendary left-hander's reaction to gossip is another reminder of how homophobia still dominates the pro sports world. (Sports).

Last year it was Mets slugger Mike Piazza. This year it is the great Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax, who retired in 1966. Both major league icons faced intimations that they were gay from Page Six, the New York Post's notorious gossip column.

Their reactions, however, could not have been more different. Although Piazza told reporters, "I'm not gay," he went on to say that major leaguers were ready for an openly gay teammate. But Koufax was far less sanguine. Upon learning about the item in the Post, a subsidiary of News Corp., which also owns the Dodgers, Koufax severed all ties to the baseball organization he'd been associated with for nearly half a century. Even after his playing days were over, he served as a part-time pitching instructor for the Dodgers.

"With the reaction of Koufax, you would have thought people were accusing him of being a child molester," said Jim Buzinski, cofounder of OutSports.com, a gay-oriented sports news Web site. "Whether he's gay or not, what's all the fuss? It just goes to show that the sports world is still having a terrible time dealing with sexual orientation."

The Post item that upset Koufax claimed that a "Hall of Fame baseball hero" had cooperated in the preparation of a biography on one condition: The author "promised to keep it a secret that he is gay." Most people assumed the hero of the two-sentence item was Koufax and that the biography was Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy by Jane Leavy.

The harsh reaction to the item, which the Post eventually retracted, was not limited to Koufax's. Leavy was equally agitated. The item "was blatantly unfair, scandalous, and contemptible," she said. "It was thoroughly without basis insofar as it had to do with Sandy or any relationship I had with him professionally. It's not the kind of journalism I practice."

Despite the harsh reactions to the gossip, Buzinski said the Piazza and Koufax affairs could one day open the door to a more tolerant pro sports world. "Whenever this happens, it makes a lot of people stop and say, `Hey, what's so wrong with being gay?'" he said. "It forces them to confront their own homophobia. Right now the denial that there are gay sports heroes is stronger than the acceptance. But eventually that's going to change because someone is going to simply get tired of all the denial."
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Title Annotation:Sandy Koufax
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:399
Previous Article:Rants & raves.
Next Article:A generous helping. (Grass Roots).
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