||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
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 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. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.
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. He was voted to 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 being 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 once described him as the next Willie Mays. Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system being called up to the major league club.
The association of Burke, as a gay man, 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. Burke refused to participate in the sham, allegedly responding, "to a woman?" He also angered Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. The Dodgers eventually dealt 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. There, he received little playing time in the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Billy Martin used the word "faggot" in the clubhouse upon becoming an Athletics's manager in 1980, and some teammates avoided showering with him. After he suffered a knee injury before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. The A's released him from his contract in 1980.
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." He told the New York Times that "Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn't changing," and stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." Burke left professional sports for good at age 27. Burke told People in 1994 that his "mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype" and that he thinks "it worked".
The high five
In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles 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, thus the two together were 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 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.
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.
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 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. 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.
- 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. 
- "Glenn Burke, 42, A Major League Baseball Player". New York Times. June 2, 1995. p. A26. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
- 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.
- GaySports: A High Five to Baseball Great Glenn Burke
- Keith Stern (2009). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays. Jennifer Canzoneri. p. 78.
- "Inner Strength, Inner Peace". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Nov 2, 1994.
- "Patient Zero", RadioLab, 2012/05/30.
- Matthew Silverman; Greg Spira (2005). USA Today/Sports Weekly Best Baseball Writing 2005. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 95.
- Jet: 48. Oct 4, 1982.
- Jon Mooallem. "The history and mystery of the high five", ESPN, July 29, 2011
- Glenn Burke, an Openly Gay Baseball Player, Dies
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Glenn Burke at Find a Grave
- Episode of Radiolab discussing Glenn Burke (in the third segment)