Why Brian Johnson is my favorite former MLB player


Through all my years of covering sports, I’ve made very few athlete friends. Some of that is on purpose, and some of that is inevitable. From the writer’s vantage point, you don’t wanna befriend those you cover. Back when I was regularly doing baseball for SI, there was a beat writer who used to go to bars with the players. It was, in a word, pathetic.

On the other hand, players don’t go out of their way to befriend writers. We’re often the enemies—intruders, invaders, spies.

Fair enough.

That said, I have one pal who played. His name is Brian Johnson.

Brian was a catcher for eight seasons, best known for his time with the Giants and Padres. We initially met back in 2001, when he was in camp with the Dodgers. We only spoke briefly then, but reconnected years later when I was reporting the Bonds book. In short, Brian is the rare ballplayer who refused to go along with mindless convention. He didn’t just think baseball-baseball-baseball-baseball. He read books. He debated teammates. He supported gay rights. He pondered life after athletics.

Anyhow, I’m babbling. He’s a great, great dude, and in response to my gay baseball post, he wrote the following:

In reading your reader’s responses, it is amazing the selfishness in the ones opposed to it, and the selflessness of those that are cool with it.

How is it that, because you may be “uncomfortable” with someone, it somehow gives you a say as to how they choose live their life.

Those that oppose all things gay seem to regularly get grossed out at the visual that comes to their mind. Or, they use the Bible as if an unconditional and loving God makes exceptions for those that choose to love “certain people”.

Guys, get over yourselves because it is really not about you.

Believe me. Of the, oh, 2,500 men who have played in the majors since I started writing sports, 10 or 11 might share Brian’s beliefs. The rest see gays as these cootie-carrying freaks.

Sad, but true.