Mike Penner, sports writer who struggled with sexual orientation
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Times sports writer Mike Penner, who announced two years ago he was a transsexual and was changing his name to Christine Daniels, died Friday at a hospital, said Los Angeles County coroner’s Lieutenant Brian Elias. He said coroner’s officials hadn’t yet issued an official cause of death.
The Times said in a story Saturday Mr. Penner, 52, was believed to have committed suicide. Mr. Penner had returned to using the name Mike Penner last year and was a Times columnist at the time of his death.
In 25 years with the newspaper, Mr. Penner covered Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the Olympics, World Cup soccer, tennis, and other sports. A fluid writer with a sharp wit, he worked at various times as a reporter, columnist, and the newspaper’s Los Angeles Angels beat writer.
“Mike was one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with, capable of reporting on any number of topics with great wit and style. He was a very gentle man who will be greatly missed. This is a tragic ending,’’ said Times sports editor Mike James.
Times editor Russ Stanton said Mr. Penner “respected our readers a great deal, enough to share with them his very personal journey.’’
Mr. Penner revealed that journey on April 26, 2007, when he wrote a story for the Times headlined “Old Mike, New Christine,’’ in which he revealed he was taking a few weeks vacation and when he returned to his job it would be as a woman named Christine Daniels.
“I am a transsexual sports writer,’’ Mr. Penner wrote. “It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words.’’
The announcement sent shock waves through the sports world, but Mr. Penner’s bosses were supportive.
As Mr. Penner himself noted, when he revealed his plans to Randy Harvey, who was then sports editor, Harvey “leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, ‘Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.’ ’’
After his vacation, Mr. Penner did indeed return as Christine Daniels. However, he eventually returned to writing under the name Mike Penner.