It’s impossible to get to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown without navigating through miles upon miles of two-lane upstate New York roads.
Based on the types of signs and flags you encounter through a procession of Middleburghs and East Durhams and Cobleskills, it becomes clear pretty quickly that you’ve entered a part of the country where the local diners are populated by right-wingers and New York Times writers recording their every word. It’s the kind of area where if an LGBTQ person starts looking over their shoulder, it’s not to admire the view.
Yet in the middle of this environment, the normally staid and conservative Hall of Fame just made a gesture that spoke volumes about its attitude toward LGBTQ inclusion in baseball.
After the San Francisco Giants played last Saturday’s Pride Day game wearing rainbow SF caps and patches, the team announced manager Gabe Kapler had donated his Pride cap where it will go on display.
Gabe Kapler’s cap from today is headed to the @baseballhall.
The #SFGiants are proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to celebrate the countless achievements and contributions of all those who identify as LGBTQ+ and are allies of the LGBTQ+ community. pic.twitter.com/BnLXYGFdXK
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) June 6, 2021
While the Giants taking the field wearing the colors of the Progress Pride and Transgender Pride flags was trailblazing and newsworthy, it wasn’t exactly surprising to see this gesture celebrated in San Francisco.
But to witness this historic moment of Pride commemorated for posterity at the game’s spiritual home at a small village in New York State feels like a whole new level of acceptance.
One of the simple pleasures of visiting the Hall is being uplifted by the magnitude of baseball history as you move from one historic timepiece to another throughout the museum. And based on this latest acquisition, for the first time in the Halls’ existence, you’ll now be able to view exhibits that lead from Babe Ruth’s bat to Willie Mays’s glove to Henry Aaron’s uniform to …
The rainbow cap is just one artifact, but to any LGBTQ fan, it’s a significant one. Important enough that seeing it in the timeline of baseball history would make me step back and emotionally take in the moment.
It also helps that the cap itself is spectacular. When I saw it on TV, my first thought was, “That’s perfect.” The colors absolutely pop inside the interlocking SF and the design makes it clear that it represents everyone in our community.
Even more perfect: this Pride cap is in the Hall of Fame and Curt Schilling isn’t.
As for the manager who donated the cap, Kapler has an intriguing history with LGBTQ fans and Outsports. A fitness buff throughout his playing career from 1998 through 2010, he wasn’t shy about showing off the body he had sculpted.
As co-founder Jim Buzinski reflected, he “became a figure of liberation for gay male sports fans at the time.” In an era where gay sports fans often repressed their sexuality on most mainstream websites, images of a ripped and shirtless Kapler were a staple at Outsports.
Kapler was never bothered by his popularity in the gay sports fan community, and just this past week, participated in a virtual roundtable discussion on LGBTQ issues with Billy Bean, Christina Kahrl and Giants Vice President Roscoe Mapps. His Pride cap donation to the Hall will help the museum tell the story of the growing LGBTQ presence in baseball.
Two years ago, I wrote a piece making the case for the Hall of Fame to add an exhibit on LGBTQ contributions to the sport. Even while I was putting it together, I knew that the Hall is usually a slow-moving institution and figured that it would take a significant push to actually get something done.
The Hall of Fame acquiring and displaying the Giants Pride cap feels like a step in that direction, and I almost can’t put into words how elated I was to see that news. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every visit I’ve made to Cooperstown and always get a serotonin blast from of seeing the artifacts that played a role in so many great moments from baseball’s past.
The next time I go, I’m going to feel like my community belongs there too. And in rural upstate New York, that feels like winning Game 7.