Sunday, October 21, 2012

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight 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 also the first to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality. Today's Out Spotlight is Glenn Burke.

Glenn Lawrence Burke was born in California on November 16, 1955.  He attended Berkeley High School, where he excelled in multiple sports.  Burke was an accomplished high school basketball star, leading the Berkeley High's "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 and briefly attended University of Nevada on a basketball scholarship before the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him.

At the beginning of  his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays. Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system for just four years before being called up to the major league club.

While with the Dodgers, Burke began to openly express his sexual orientation.

His 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 as well as offering a bonus to the outfielder. Burke refused to participate in the sham, allegedly responding, "to a woman?"

“Glenn was comfortable with who he was,” said a childhood friend. “Baseball was not comfortable with who he was.”

He also angered Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr.

 In 1977, the Dodgers traded Burke to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North, by some accounts a much less talented player, suggesting homophobia was behind the trade.  Many of his teammates believed that Burke was traded because of his sexual orientation. ”

At Oakland, manager Billy Martin introduced him as a "f#@@%t" in front of his teammates. He was given little playing time on the A's, and 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 1979. He retired from professional baseball in 1980.

In 1982, Burke publicly came out in an Inside Sports article, titled “The Double Life of a Dodger. Burke left professional sports for good at age 27.

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

 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 is known as the originator of the “high five.”

In 1977, after Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run in the last game of the season, he greeted his teammate at home plate with an open palm.
 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." “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back so I reached up and hit his hand,” Baker said. “It seemed like the thing to do.”

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.

He 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 in May 1995, he was 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.

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.

In 2010, "Out. The Glenn Burke Story" a documentary on the life and career of Glenn Burke premiered.

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

 "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


Jersey Tom said...

One of your best Spotlights ever SK. I got very emotional reading it. What a brave man. Men like Tommy Lasorda and Billy Martin should be ashamed of themselves. I am so happy his teammates came to his support in his time of neeed. I hope I live long enough to see more men in sports come out. It would have such a huge impact with kids. Athletes are put on such a high pedestal.

destiny said...

What a devastating story.

Seaweed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seaweed said...

I'm with Tom and Destiny on this one. Congrats on an excellent Spotlight for Glenn Burke, and here's hoping that the future is far better for all gay athletes and people to share their talents and gifts openly and proudly.

Michael K said...

Taylor Swift Is An Evil And Cruel Torturer

Taylor Swift missed her calling. Taylor should've been a torturer at Guantanamo Bay, because bitch knows how to put the pain on a grown man and leave him screaming for a rusty razor so he can murder his ears. Taylor's newest assault on ears "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is supposedly about Jake Gyllenhaal, and she tells USA Today (via WOW Report) that she wrote that Pee Chee folder poem of a song as an act of revenge against her ex. Taylor's ex hates the kind of music she makes, so she purposefully wrote a bubble gum shit song that would get tons of play and torture him everywhere he went.

"He made me feel like I wasn't as good or as relevant as these hipster bands he listened to. So I made a song that I knew would absolutely drive him crazy when he heard it on the radio. Not only would it hopefully be played a lot, so that he'd have to hear it, but it's the opposite of the kind of music that he was trying to make me feel inferior to."

And when USA Today asked her why would she want to torment someone, she said, "Because that's fun."

Taylor is The Bad Seed of music. She looks like an Anne of Green Gables extra, all sweet and farm-like and shit, but she'll viciously murder you in the face. Crazy bitch. When normal people want to get back at an ex-boyfriend, they do sane stuff like key the words "I Have Gonorrhea" into his car or stalk him so much that he has to move to a different state. That's what normal people do. But Taylor has to get back at an ex by writing a song that will eventually play EVERYWHERE. So Taylor is not only torturing her ex piece, she's torturing EVERYONE.

If you don't believe that Taylor has the power to destroy men through her music. Just look at Wilford Brimley in the picture above. That's the face of a man who was just brutally tortured by being forced to listen to Taylor's album on the car ride over to Good Morning America.

Special K said...

Over the last year or so I had the chance to find out about Glenn Burke and wasn't sure when I would use it, but knew I would it was such an incredible story. It is wonderful that they made a documentary about him, but it would also make an amazing dramatic film.

Special K said...

Let's go Giants.

destiny said...

HIs story would make a good film.

destiny said...

Michael K, funny as ever.

Jersey Tom said...

Good night for the President. He clearly won the debate. Good night for the Giants they kicked the Cardinals butts. The Tigers will be tough though.