05/21/2002 11:28 pm ET
Piazza summons media to halt baseless speculation
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Mike Piazza chose a public forum to discuss a private issue Tuesday afternoon. The nine-time All-Star, responding to recent but baseless speculation that started in a New York tabloid, took it upon himself to address a large media gathering on the Veterans Stadium field prior to Tuesday's game between the Mets and Phillies.
The New York Post, legendary for its gossip, published a story on Monday suggesting that Mets manager Bobby Valentine might have been referring to one of his players in an upcoming story in the June/July issue of Details magazine. According to the article, Valentine had been asked whether he thought baseball was ready for an openly gay player. Valentine said he thought the players were "a diverse enough group now that ... they could handle (a gay teammate)."
The tabloid then speculated that the Mets manager was making a "pre-emptory strike" and that "one Mets star who spends a lot of time with pretty models in clubs is actually gay and has started to think about declaring his sexual orientation."
The story did not name a particular player, but sports talk radio rambled on with what amounted to a number of wild guesses that the player in question might be Piazza.
"It just seems to me to be reckless journalism," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said, "to refer to Bobby's comments as out of the blue when it was clearly a question-and-answer situation. I've heard rumors about players on many teams before, and it's not worth a second thought."
Tuesday, Piazza made it a point to take on -- and presumably close -- the issue.
"The rumor was brought to my attention, and all I have to say is that I'm not gay. I am heterosexual," Piazza said. "That's pretty much it. That's all I can say. I don't need to address the issue further.
"That's just a part of being a public figure. Things come up; rumors get started. I don't know how or where, but these things do not apply to me at all. I said what I have to say. I can't control what people think, but I am heterosexual, I date women, end of story."
Piazza went on to say that he didn't think it would be a problem if a player were openly gay.
"In this day and age, it would be irrelevant if the guy was doing his job," he said.
Phillips, effectively lamenting the peculiar 48-hour circus, spoke for many when he summed up the non-story in this way:
"I don't think it's anyone's business," the GM said. "But if you're going to write it, go right to them and ask them. And the bottom line is, who cares? It's no one's business."
Kevin T. Czerwinski covers the Mets for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.