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Glenn Burke
Outfielder
Born: November 16, 1952(1952-11-16)
Oakland, California
Died: May 30, 1995 (aged 42)
San Leandro, California
Batted: Right Threw: 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 (Oakland, California) - May 30, 1995 (San Leandro, California) 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 to be out to his teammates and team owners during his professional career.[citation needed] He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.[citation needed]

“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[1]

Burke was named Northern California's High School Basketball Player of the Year in 1970, and could run the 100 yard dash in 9.7 seconds.[citation needed] 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] When he started his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays.[2]

Although he is commonly thought of as 'the player who invented the High-Five' the High-Five was widely used for at least a half-century prior to Burke's adaptation of the gesture during baseball games. In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker for hitting a home run in the last game of the regular season. His celebration has since been imitated by athletes and fans in virtually every sport around the world. Another High-Five came moments later when Baker returned the favor in celebration of Burke's first major league home run.

Glenn was also 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] After high school, Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system hitting well over .300 before being called up to the major league club.[citation needed]

As a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's Burke had 523 at-bats over his four seasons in the big leagues and had a career batting average of .237. He stole 35 bases.

Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his autobiography Out at Home, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married.[2] Burke refused to participate in the sham. He also angered Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr.[2] The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland Athletics.

Faced with mounting personal difficulties and lackluster statistics, Burke eventually quit baseball. He stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." He returned for spring training with Oakland in 1980. Billy Martin, the newly hired manager of the Athletics made public statements about not wanting a gay man in his clubhouse.[citation needed] When Burke injured his knee before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. Burke then left professional sports for good at age 27.

In his 225 games in the majors, Burke batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBI and 35 stolen bases.

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

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 220 meter sprints in the first Gay Games in 1982.[citation needed] 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.[3]

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]

Glenn 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.[citation needed] Unlike Glenn 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.[citation needed]

References

External links








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