There are a number of sides to every story.
In order to paint an accurate picture, it would follow that having as many of those different points of view as possible would be best. Right?
On Tuesday morning, Sports on Earth published this post written by Dirk Hayhurst, a player-turned-writer and broadcaster – and actually the first professional baseball player I ever interviewed and wrote about – called Minor League Manhood.
It’s a long piece but begins with the premise that what separates the men from the boys in minor league baseball – in particular with the short-season Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League where Hayhurst got his pro start – is women.
The former Toronto Blue Jay goes on to tell tales of when his Emeralds teammates would bring women back to various hotel rooms for not only the individual player’s pleasure, but also for his roommate and the rest of the squad to watch.
“Some girls knew,” Hayhurst wrote. “Some girls didn’t. Sometimes a girl would figure it out and run out of the place screaming, while the guys laughed at her outrage. Some girls really seemed to like the live audience, but almost none of them knew they were being videotaped.”
Hayhurst went on further to bring up the subject of rape. He described teammates leaving the room during sex with a woman, under the premise that he was going to use the bathroom, only to be replaced by another player in the blackness of that space without his partner knowing, thus happening without her consent.
This is awful. This should never happen to anyone. This action should indeed be deemed rape, and Hayhurst felt so awful about lying by omission about the sexual crimes committed that he’s now published them 11 years after they took place, also five years after the statute of limitations in Oregon ran out on any rapes that happened during that time.
I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the accusations, but what I also find to be terrible is that the article reads as though all of Hayhurst’s teammates took part in these activities. He threw an entire roster of Eugene Emeralds under the bus, making it sound like he was the only one who didn’t partake and had any moral dilemma with the aforementioned activities.
I don’t know what happened and I certainly wasn’t there, but I do know at least three men who played with Hayhurst during either his time in Eugene or his time in Mobile, where he later described another incident. I’ll get to that. But three other guys were willing to respond to a couple of my inquiries on this topic.
The first player I spoke to read the article when I sent it to him and agreed to answer my questions as they followed. What I really wanted was his reaction to what he’d just read, and I wanted a ballpark figure on the number of guys who did not participate in the peer-pressured or criminal events he described.
He said: “Estimated percentage would be a small amount of guys who did that stuff. I was only on the Eugene team for a couple weeks but I did not witness what he wrote about.”
Nothing. He didn’t see any of that.
So maybe for a couple of weeks the team was on its best behaviour. Maybe the players were concentrating on other things. Maybe the man I spoke to actually just missed every terrible thing that happened and it only occurred on the days he wasn’t around. Of course there’s always the possibility that he wasn’t telling me the truth either, but I trust him. But it struck me that Hayhurst wrote the story as though the activities he discussed were happening all the time. I’m sure they took place, but I’m relieved at least to know that the events might have been exaggerated for effect.
Another former teammate of Hayhurst’s read the story when I sent it to him and of it he said, “It makes no sense to me at all.”
The second former player I’ve known longer than the first, and has nothing to lose and no reason to lie. I trust each of the three sources I spoke to about this subject matter and stand by everything they told me. None of them asked for anonymity but I suggested it from the start. That should be noted.
So, a small percentage of players were participants. That doesn’t make what they did any better and it certainly doesn’t excuse their actions or the fact that their teammates knew what was going on and it still happened, but there was only one piece of Hayhurst’s article where he came close to mentioning that not every member of the squad was involved.
“Not all of us were into exhibitionist sex, but it quickly came to dominate the team’s social hierarchy,” Hayhurst said. “So many young, liberated, loud-talking sexual dynamos. We were all virgins in pro ball, something that only time and luck were going to change. These wanton sexual exploits were seen as our proving ground until we could reach that point, based on the group’s juvenile belief that any of it meant something beyond sex. It meant masculinity. It meant fearlessness. It meant promotion. It meant playing the game the right way.”
Playing the game the right way went one step further when Hayhurst was promoted to the Double-A Mobile Baybears. In the article he described an emergency meeting the team had to discuss player infidelity because one player cheated on his wife, his roommate told his own wife, and the two wives talked. You can figure out what followed.
Hayhurst quoted the team’s manager, whom I believe to have been Gary Jones at the time, as saying, “Women don’t understand what we do in here, and they don’t need to know. You see a guy on this team screwing around, the last person on earth that needs to know is that player’s wife, which means the last person you should tell is your wife. You let guys make their own bed, and you keep your mouth shut about it.”
The former player made it sound as though this was a significant event. Hayhurst made the meeting sound memorable. Maybe the players I talked to about this occurrence in particular just weren’t listening, or perhaps they’ve forgotten the details in the last nine years, and I guess that’s possible. But they made sure to read about it again in the story, and still came up blank.
“I don’t remember anything like that from Mobile,” one guy said. “I was there all year and never was part of a conversation like that.”
I asked yet another player if he remembered the specific situation in Mobile. He simply said, “No I don’t.” He was uninterested in reading the article as a reminder.
In conversation about the story with one of these guys, I said that it read to me like Hayhurst was throwing all of his former teammates under the bus. My interpretation of the story was that he came off as a good guy and everyone else did absolutely terrible things with no consequences.
“That sounds like Dirk,” Hayhurst’s former teammate responded to my comments. “I used to be friends with him but lost respect for him after his first book and he started airing guys’ personal issues. I don’t associate with him anymore. And I’m drawing a blank on the [Mobile] story.”
One player with whom I spoke earlier this season didn’t mind the airing of dirty laundry in Hayhurst’s books, but he thought that perhaps the former pitcher could have done it differently.
“I thought he did a really good job,” they player said. “He catches a lot of flak for how he went about it from teammates and stuff like that, but Dirk is Dirk. I think if it were me doing the thing – him doing what he did – I would have been a little more tactful, but not to say that I would have written anything different. I thought he did a great job.
“He certainly didn’t lie in any of the books. I think the material in the book is great but I think that in the process he might have alienated a few people that he may or may not have had to. But he is who he is. He didn’t really care.”
I’m not sure what Hayhurst cares about, but I do know that I didn’t get an accurate picture of what he described from the story he wrote for Sports on Earth. So I wanted to follow up, and that’s what I did. It doesn’t make the actions of the players better but it also doesn’t allow the impression that entire rosters of baseball players were participants.
Perhaps it was true that women separated the men from the boys while Hayhurst was in Eugene. But just as not all players were equal in that sense, they’re not all equal in terms of conforming to the baseball stereotypes that Hayhurst is perpetuating.
There are more sides to the story.