The Rumor, by Dan Kois

Original production | A note on the dialogue

TWO REPORTERS (playing multiple roles)

LIGHTS UP on a table with three microphones. REPORTERS are arrayed before the table, waiting for the press conference to begin. A PR FLACK is briefing them.

Flack We'll have Larry Wakefield, Chris Tingley, and Chuck Bonner out to talk about the game in a moment. FYI, Boston lost tonight so the Yanks are a half-game out.
R1 What about Castillo?
Flak He's with ESPN.
R1 Fuckin' ESPN.
R2 The guy got the game-winning RBI, he can't spare ten minutes/ for us?
Flack He's with ESPN.
R1 Fuckin' ESPN.
R2 Will Bonner be addressing Tony's column in the Post?
Flack I can't speak to that, Linda.
R2 So, yeah?
[WAKEFIELD, TINGLEY and BONNER enter and sit at the table. They have all recently showered and still have wet hair. WAKEFIELD wears a Yankees hat and a warm-up jacket. TINGLEY wears a muscle shirt with cut-off sleeves and is chewing gum. BONNER has a towel hung around his neck.]
R1 Nice throwin' today, Chuck!
Bonner Thanks.
R1 Love that sinker to/ Mendoza.
R2 Chris, were you looking fastball on the homer?
Tingley Yeah.
Flack Chuck has a prepared statement to read.
Chuck has a prepared statement and then they'll all take questions.
Bonner Thank you.
[Reads from a prepared statement.]
"We live in a society where baseball players are looked up to as heroes. Right or wrong, I know that as a player for the greatest team in the world, my life a public one. But I try to keep my private life as private as possible. However, recent rumors, including an irresponsible column in yesterday's New York Post, force me to respond.

"I know that I live in America, the greatest country in the world, and that part of that greatness is freedom of the press. But I resent these rumors and I resent the fact that I have been forced to dignify them with a response. So I will just say it, right here, right now, so that there can be no confusion:

"I am not ambidextrous."
Flack Prepared statement, guys, then questions.
Bonner "I am a right handed pitcher. I pitch with my right hand. I cannot, nor do I want to, throw with my left hand. I only pitch with my right hand. Thank you."
Flack Questions?
R1 Chuck, Tony Franklin's Post column didn't mention any names at all.
Bonner Right.
R1 It just said, I'll quote here: "There's a persistent rumor around town that one Yankees star who spends a lot of time throwing the ball with his right hand is actually ambidextrous and has started to think about declaring his manual orientation." Why do you think the column's about you?
Bonner I don't know who the column's about. You'll have to ask Tony Franklin that.
R1 Sorry, I'll rephrase. Do Yankees fans think the column is about you?
Bonner I can't control what people think. That's obvious. And I can't convince people what to think. I can only say what I know and what the truth is and that's I'm right-handed and I throw with my right hand. That's it. End of story.
Flack Yes, Anne.
R2 Coach, is there an ambidextrous player on the Yankees?
Wakefield I don't know. Not that it's anyone's business, but I don't know. I never walked in on anyone throwing with both hands, if that's what you mean.
Flack Barry?
R1 Coach, can you explain the comments you made to Esquire magazine last month?
Wakefield Whaddya mean, explain?
R1 Well,/ I mean --
Wakefield What's to explain?
R1 Coach --
Wakefield Next question.
Flack Okay --
Wakefield "Explain." Are the majors are ready for an openly ambidextrous player? I said sure. What's to explain?
R1 Do you still feel that way, after all the attention/ this issue has gotten?
Wakefield Yeah, sure I do. We're all big boys here.
Flack Latonya?
R2 Chris, how do you feel? Are the majors ready for a player who openly has the ability to throw with both hands?
Tingley In this day and age it would be irrelevant. If the guy is doing his job on the field, you know, I don't think there would be any problem at all.
Bonner I agree.
Tingley There's practical considerations, though.
Bonner Yeah.
Tingley Like, what hand does he wear his glove on?
Bonner Sure, yeah.
Flack Bobby?
R1 Nice game today, Chris.
Tingley Thanks, Bobby.
R1 Your former teammate, Eric Davis/ made headlines
Tingley Ah, Eric.
R1 a few seasons ago by saying that he wouldn't share a glove with an ambidextrous teammate.
Tingley I remember.
R1 He said, I'm paraphrasing here, but he said, "I have no problem with switch-hitters, but I don't want someone on my team going around throwing with both hands."
Tingley Right.
R1 "That's just plain weird," he said.
Tingley Right.
R1 Do you think his feelings are shared by many big leaguers?
Tingley No.
Bonner No.
Tingley Nuh-uh, it's just, ballplayers are never/ gonna...
Bonner We're not the most open-minded/ people on earth...
Tingley Right, but we're still/ fairly...
Bonner We're not going to, y'know, walk into an ambidextrous bar and start, like --
Tingley -- playing darts.
Bonner With both hands.
Tingley No.
Wakefield But on the whole, I think major leaguers are pretty accepting.
Tingley Eric, I love Eric, but he's sort of from the old school, you know.
Bonner [nodding] Old/ school.
Wakefield Old school.
Flack Yeah, Alia.
R2 Coach, what kind of player should be that trailblazer? The Jackie Robinson of ambidexterity?
TIngley Good question./ Good question.
Bonner Good question.
Wakefield Well -- it shouldn't matter -- but it'd be best if he's a real superstar, like Jackie was.
Tingley That's why there's rumors about Chuck, you know. When you're getting near 300 wins, that's a big deal, and if he was ambidextrous, which he's not, but if he were, he'd be a real ambassador.
Bonner Sure.
Wakefield Beyond that, I don't know. Whoever he is -- like Jackie -- whoever he is, he shouldn't be such a, a, in-your-face ambidextrous guy. He should be proud, but he should have that -- dignity.
Bonner It's best if he's not flamboyantly ambidextrous.
Tingley Using both hands all the time in public, right.
Flack Lance?
R1 Fellas, even the most conservative estimates from scientists suggest that two to four percent of Americans are ambidextrous. So it would seem like at least 15/ to 30 major leaguers...
Bonner That's high. That's just math.
Wakefield Lance, this isn't the general population, you know? This is baseball. Single-handedness is very important, it's a really prominent part of the culture of baseball, you know, the locker room and all.
R1 But still, there must be at least one or two/ who are in the closet.
Bonner Sure./ Sure.
Tingley Sure. We've played with guys, with guys who, you know, who weren't out out but who it was a known secret on the team, you know?
R1 And no one had any --
Bonner No. No problem.
[Tiny pause]
R1 Was this on the Dodgers?
Bonner I'm not, no, I'm not/ identi-
R1 Was it --
Wakefield That's fruitless, Lance. Next question. That young lady over there has been waving her hands for a while.
Flack Yes, Miss...
R2 Lucinda Martin, Both Hands Magazine.
Bonner Oh, Christ.
R2 Mr. Bonner, do you have a problem with ambidextrous people?
Bonner No, I do not.
R2 Does this so-called rumor threaten your handhood? Do you see something wrong/ with ambidexterity?
Bonner No.
Wakefield Can someone --
R2 Do you feel --
Flack Miss, please let Mr. Bonner answer your questions.
R2 Sure, fine.
Bonner I have no problem whatsoever with ambidextrous people. Okay? I, I'm not one, but I, like I said before, I have played with them before, and I have friends, and I'm just saying -- it's not me. I'll tell Yankees fans right now, the greatest fans in the world, ambidextrous people are people just like you and me.
R2 Mr. Bonner, I'm ambidextrous.
Bonner That's great.
R2 Like many ambidextrous people, my favorite baseball player is Chuck Bonner. You actually have quite a fan base among the ambi community. Would you like to speculate on why this is?
Bonner [pained] No, that's great. I'm always grateful for my fans, no matter who they are or how many of their hands they can use with equal ability.
R2 What would you say if I told you we had pictures --
Flack Okay,/ that's enough.
R2 Pictures of you throwing with your left hand in high school?
Tingley Someone shut her the fuck up!
R2 What would you say?
Bonner I'd say you were a liar. You can do anything with photos these days.
R2 But these pictures --
R1 Shut up! Let the rest of us go!
Tingley Those pictures are bullshit, just for the record.
R2 You can't lie to yourself forever, Bonner!
Flack [very firm] That is absolutely enough, Miss Martin. If you cannot speak civilly to these players I will have you removed. Next question, right here in the front.
R1 Chuck, can you prove you're not ambidextrous?
Wakefield Oh, for Chrissakes --
R1 Our readers want to know if a major New York figure is hiding a newsworthy fact about himself!
Tingley This is not/ newsworthy.
Bonner Carter, ask anyone who knows me. Ask anyone who --
R1 Can you prove it?
Bonner Fine. Fuck. Fine.
[BONNER tromps out into the reporter pool.]
Gimme your -- gimme your notebook.
Tingley Chuck --
Bonner Gimme your fucking notebook. And your pen. Here. I'm writing with my left hand. Look at this!
[He holds the notebook up. In extremely childish, sloppy lettering: FUCK YOU]
Is that proof enough? Is that proof enough? How about this?
[He throws the notebook at Reporter 2 with his left hand, missing by a mile. His throwing motion is exaggeratedly awkward, almost girlish. He is furious, near tears.]
Tingley Chuck!
Bonner How about that? Did you get your pictures? Did you get all that? Why does everyone think I'm hiding something, that I'm -- why? No, tell me. Why? Do you ask Greg Maddux if he's ambidextrous? Do you ask Randy Johnson? Well, do you?
Tingley [softly] No.
Bonner No! What if I was an ambidextrous man? What if I was? How would this fucking witch-hunt make me feel? What kind of message does that send to the world?
Tingley Chuck, honey...
[TINGLEY takes BONNER's hand and strokes it. BONNER is crying. TINGLEY gently kisses BONNER's forehead.]
Bonner I'm so tired, Chris.
Tingley I know.
Bonner What if I was? What if I was tired of keeping secrets?
Tingley Then you'd have to stop keeping them.
R1 What are you saying, Chuck?
Tingley [to the reporter] Shut up.
Bonner [ignoring the reporter] What if I was tired?
R2 Chris? Is this something you and your husband have discussed?
[Pause. WAKEFIELD makes a cut-off gesture to the Flack.]
Flak Okay, this press conference is over-
Bonner No.
Tingley Chuck?
Bonner No.
[BONNER looks over at WAKEFIELD, who nods solemnly. BONNER faces the crowd.]
I have something I would like to say.


Photo by Ian Williams.