November 16, 1952|
|Died: May 30, 1995
San Leandro, California
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|April 9, 1976 for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 4, 1979 for the Oakland Athletics|
|Runs batted in||38|
Burke was the first and as of 2013 the only Major League Baseball player known to have acknowledged his homosexuality to teammates and team owners during his professional career and the first to publicly acknowledge it. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.
Early athletic career
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2013)|
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. He was voted into the Tournament of Champions (TOC) and received a Northern California MVP award. 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. He was considered capable of becoming a professional basketball player, but his first offer came from Major League Baseball.
Major League career
Toward the beginning of his career, an assistant coach described him as the next Willie Mays. Burke was a highly touted star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system before being called up to the major league club.
As a gay man, Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his 1995 autobiography Out at Home, Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to marry. Burke refused to do so, and is said to have responded "to a woman?" He also angered Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. Lasorda has disputed that but says he does not understand Burke's behavior at the time: "Why wouldn't he come out? Why keep that inside? Glenn had a lot of talent. He could have been an outstanding basketball or baseball player. He sure was good in the clubhouse. What happened? I don't know what happened. He just wasn't happy here?" The Dodgers eventually traded Burke to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North, claiming that they needed an experienced player who could contribute right away. North did have more experience and better statistics, but some would argue he was less talented, and there have been suggestions that homophobia was behind the trade. In Oakland Burke received little playing time in the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Billy Martin used the word "faggot" in the clubhouse when he became an Athletics's manager in 1980, and some teammates avoided showering with Burke. Burke suffered a knee injury before the 1980 season began, and the Athletics sent him to the minors in Utah and then released him from his contract before the season ended.
In his four seasons and 225 games in the majors playing for the Dodgers and Athletics, Burke had 523 at-bats, batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.
Burke said "By 1978 I think everybody knew" and he was "sure his teammates didn't care." Former Dodgers team captain Davey Lopes said "No one cared about his lifestyle." He told the New York Times that "Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn't changing". He wrote in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." Burke left professional sports at age 27. He told People magazine in 1994 that his "mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype" and that he thought "it worked".
The high five
In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker after Baker hit his 30th home run in the last game of the regular season. Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from third base. Not knowing what to do about the upraised hand, Baker slapped it. They have been credited with inventing the high five. 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.
Life after Major League Baseball
Burke continued his athletic endeavors after retiring from baseball. He won medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints in the first Gay Games in 1982 and competed in the 1986 Gay Games in basketball. His jersey number at Berkeley High School was retired in his honor.
An article published in Inside Sports magazine in 1982 made Burke's homosexuality public knowledge. Although he remained active in amateur competitions, 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 lived on the streets of San Francisco for a number of years, often congregating with other homeless people in the same neighborhood where he had been a popular figure. He spent his final months with his sister in Oakland. He died May 30, 1995, of AIDS complications at Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro, California, at age 42. He was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.
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. 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.
Burke's name was mentioned in the "Thin Ice" episode of the fifth season of Crossing Jordan where the plot involved a star professional baseball player falsely accused of raping a woman who chooses to risk imprisonment and the end of his career rather than reveal his homosexuality. Comparing his situation to that of two star athletes who were accused of rape in real life, the characters say:
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 Bill 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, the year Burke died.
- "Glenn Burke, 42, A Major League Baseball Player". New York Times. June 2, 1995. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Barra, Allen (May 12, 2013). "Actually, Jason Collins Isn't the First Openly Gay Man in a Major Pro Sport". The Atlantic.
- The Advocate: 14. Aug 18, 1998.
- Luca Prono (2008). Encyclopedia of gay and lesbian popular culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 44.
- Keith Stern (2009). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays. Jennifer Canzoneri. p. 78.
- Vox, Dylan (December 11, 2006). "A High Five to Baseball Great Glenn Burke". This Week in Texas. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- "Inner Strength, Inner Peace". The Milwaukee Sentinel. November 2, 1994. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- "Patient Zero", RadioLab, May 30, 2012.
- Mooallem, Jon (April 12, 2013). "History of the high five". ESPN. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Pucin, Diane (August 22, 2013). "Glenn Burke was ideal Dodger teammate whose sexuality wasn't an issue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Matthew Silverman; Greg Spira (2005). USA Today/Sports Weekly Best Baseball Writing 2005. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 95.
- Jet: 48. Oct 4, 1982.
- Barra, Allen (May 2, 2013). "Actually, Jason Collins Isn't the First Openly Gay Man in a Major Pro Sport". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- Barra, Allen (April 19, 2013). "The Jackie Robinson of Gay Rights". Village Voice. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- Grossberg, Adam (September 15, 2011). "Oakland honors late, openly gay MLB player Glenn Burke". OaklandNorth. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Crowe, Jerry (September 11, 1994). "Ex-Dodger Battles Aids, Lives On Streets—'I Hurt Every Day,' Says Glenn Burke". Seattle Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Lipsyte, Robert (September 6, 1999). "A Major League Player's Life Of Isolation and Secret Fear". New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Breen, Matthew (June 18, 2013). "National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame’s Inaugural Class Announced". Out Magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- Burke, Glenn (1995). Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story. Excel Pub. ISBN 0-9648158-0-X.
- Out. The Glenn Burke Story. 2010 documentary film, produced by Doug Harris, Sean Madison. 1 hour. 
- Jennifer Frey, "A Boy of Summer's Long, Chilly Winter; Once a Promising Ballplayer, Glenn Burke Is Dying of AIDS," New York Times, October 18, 1994
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Glenn Burke at Find a Grave
- Episode of Radiolab discussing Glenn Burke (in the third segment)