Sad Cases: Glenn Burke, The Man Who Wanted Acceptance
In the accepting world in which we live, homosexuality is prominent in most walks of life. Unfortunately, as recently as 30-40 years ago, people weren’t as accepting, set in their systemic prejudiced ways. One man who battled playing a straight-laced sport and dealing with his sexuality was baseball Outfielder Glenn Burke.
Burke played in the 1970s as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. The Dodgers selected him in the 17th round of the 1972 draft and made his debut in 1976 with Los Angeles. A lot was riding on his shoulders with many touting him as a five-tool player. He struggled as a big leaguer limiting his roles as a defensive replacement and pinch hitter. Shortly after in 1978, Los Angeles traded Burke to the Oakland Athletics, serving practically the same duties he did in LA, with as little production. After the 1979 season, he was out of baseball.
What the general public didn’t know until after his retirement, Glenn Burke was gay. During his playing time, this prompted discrimination from management and teammates straining his relationship starting with the Dodgers. At the time, Tommy Lasorda was the manager of the team, and Burke befriended Lasorda’s son, Tommy Jr. This angered the manager knowing of his homosexuality and his son also being gay, and soon after, LA shipped him up north.
With the new team, life was a little different. While the Dodger players were fond of him and didn’t as much care about his lifestyle, Oakland A’s players wouldn’t even shower with him. Their manager Billy Martin would go out of his way to label him a f*****t. Teammates wouldn’t want to be seen hanging out with him and forced Burke into early retirement, sadly at age 27.
Burke was the first professional baseball player to come out of the closet. Since then former players such as Billy Bean have also come out saying that they’re gay. Sadly, Burke died in 1995 due to complications of AIDS. Recently, award-winning author Andrew Maraniss wrote a book about him titled “Singled Out, The True Story Of Glenn Burke“. The book talks about the experiences he faced and how some failed to recognize him even being gay. One interesting side note was that many believe Burke to be the “inventor” of the high-five along with Dodger teammate Dusty Baker.