Glenn Burke

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Glenn Burke
Outfielder
Born: (1952-11-16)November 16, 1952
Oakland, California
Died: May 30, 1995(1995-05-30) (aged 42)
San Leandro, California
Batted: RightThrew: Right 
MLB debut
April 9, 1976 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
June 4, 1979 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average    .237
Home Runs    2
Runs Batted In    38
Teams
Career highlights and awards
 
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Glenn Burke
Outfielder
Born: (1952-11-16)November 16, 1952
Oakland, California
Died: May 30, 1995(1995-05-30) (aged 42)
San Leandro, California
Batted: RightThrew: Right 
MLB debut
April 9, 1976 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
June 4, 1979 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average    .237
Home Runs    2
Runs Batted In    38
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Glenn Lawrence Burke (November 16, 1952 – May 30, 1995) was a Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979.

Burke was the first and only Major League Baseball player known to have been out to his teammates and team owners during his professional career. He was the first to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality.[1] He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.[2][3]

"They can't ever say now that a gay man can't play in the majors, because I'm a gay man and I made it." – Glenn Burke[4][5]

Contents

Early athletic career

Burke was an accomplished high school basketball star, leading the Berkeley High School, California "Yellow Jackets" to an undefeated season and the 1970 Northern California championships.[citation needed] He was voted to the Tournament of Champions (TOC) and received a Northern California MVP award.[citation needed] Burke was named Northern California's High School Basketball Player of the Year in 1970. He was able to dunk a basketball using both hands – a remarkable accomplishment for someone who was just over six feet tall.[citation needed] He was considered capable of being a professional basketball player, but his first offer came from Major League Baseball.[citation needed]

Major League career

When he began his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays.[6] Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system being called up to the major league club.[citation needed]

Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his 1995 autobiography Out at Home, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married.[6] Burke refused to participate in the sham,[5] allegedly responding, "to a woman?"[7] He also angered Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr.[6] The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North, by some accounts a much less talented player, suggesting homophobia was behind the trade.[7] There, manager Billy Martin introduced him as a "faggot" in front of his teammates.[7] He was given little playing time on the A's,[7] and after he suffered a knee injury[8] before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. The A's released him from his contract in 1979.[2]

In his four seasons, and 225 games in the majors playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's, Burke had 523 at-bats, batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBI and 35 stolen bases.[1]

Homosexuality

Burke said "By 1978 I think everybody knew," and was "sure his teammates didn't care." Former Dodgers team captain Davey Lopes said "No one cared about his lifestyle."[9] He told the New York Times that "Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn't changing,"[1] and stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out."[5] Burke left professional sports for good at age 27.

"My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked." Glenn Burke in People ~ November 1994

The high five

In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker after hitting his thirtieth home run in the last game of the regular season by raising his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from third base. Not knowing what to do about the upraised hand, Baker slapped it, thus the two together were credited with inventing the high five.[10] After retiring from baseball, Burke, used the high five with other homosexual residents of the Castro district of San Francisco, where for many it became a symbol of gay pride and identification.[citation needed]

Life after Major League Baseball

Burke continued his athletic endeavors after retiring from baseball. He competed in the 1986 Gay Games in basketball, and won medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints in the first Gay Games in 1982. His jersey number at Berkeley High School was retired in his honor.[citation needed]

Burke's homosexuality became public knowledge in a 1982 article published by Inside Sports magazine. Although he remained active in amateur competition, Burke turned to drugs to fill the void in his life when his career ended. An addiction to cocaine destroyed him both physically and financially. In 1987, his leg and foot were crushed when he was hit by a car in San Francisco. After the accident his life went into physical and financial decline. He was arrested and jailed for drugs and for a time was homeless on the streets of San Francisco for a number of years often congregating in the same neighborhood that once embraced him. His final months were spent with his sister in Oakland. He died of AIDS complications at age 42.[11]

When news of his battle with AIDS became public knowledge in 1994, he received the support of his former teammates and the Oakland Athletics organization.[citation needed] In interviews given while he was fighting AIDS, he expressed little in the way of grudges, and only one big regret – that he never had the opportunity to pursue a second professional sports career in basketball.[citation needed]

Burke's name was mentioned in the fifth season Crossing Jordan episode "Thin Ice" regarding how a star professional baseball player falsely accused of raping a woman would rather risk being smeared and imprisoned on that charge than to be revealed as a homosexual.[citation needed] Referring to two star athletes in real life who were accused of rape, the character answered why:

Quentin Baker: "Do you know what a locker room's like? You know what they say about faggots? What they do to 'em?"
Jordan Cavanaugh: "What do they say about rapists?"
Baker: Mike Tyson got past it; Kobe was accused. He's still going strong; but Glenn Burke came out; and he was run out of Baseball!!"

In 1999, Major League Baseball player Billy Bean revealed his homosexuality, only the second Major League player to do so. Unlike Burke who made his homosexuality public while he was still an active player, Bean revealed himself four years after his retirement in 1995, which happened to be the year Burke died.

Further information

References

  1. ^ a b c "Glenn Burke, 42, A Major League Baseball Player". New York Times: p. A26. June 2, 1995. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/02/nyregion/glenn-burke-42-a-major-league-baseball-player.html. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b The Advocate: 14. Aug 18, 1998. 
  3. ^ Luca Prono (2008). Encyclopedia of gay and lesbian popular culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 44. 
  4. ^ GaySports: A High Five to Baseball Great Glenn Burke
  5. ^ a b c Keith Stern (2009). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays. Jennifer Canzoneri. p. 78. 
  6. ^ a b c Brigham, Bob (1995). "The Man Who Invented the High-Five – Glenn Burke: A Gay "Hero" With Feet of Clay". The Diamond Angle. http://www.outsports.com/baseball/2003/0617glennburke.htm. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Patient Zero", RadioLab, 2012/05/30.
  8. ^ Matthew Silverman; Greg Spira (2005). USA Today/Sports Weekly Best Baseball Writing 2005. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 95. 
  9. ^ Jet: 48. Oct 4, 1982. 
  10. ^ Jon Mooallem. "The history and mystery of the high five", ESPN, July 29, 2011
  11. ^ Glenn Burke, an Openly Gay Baseball Player, Dies

External links