“They can’t say that a gay man can’t play in the Majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it.”
– Glenn Burke
Forty-six years after stepping on to a Major League Baseball diamond as a defiant, unapologetic, openly gay man, Glenn Burke was honored at Dodger Stadium for being the first and still only MLB player to do so.
Born in 1952 in Oakland, California, Glenn Burke made his MLB debut on April 9, 1976 with the LA Dodger and never made a secret of his sexuality with management or teammates. Dodger management was so concerned the Press would find out Burke was gay, they offered him $75K ($381K today) and a lavish honeymoon if he’d get married. He responded by saying, “I guess you mean to a woman?” and refused their offer.
During his time with the Dodgers, Burke is credited with creating an expression of happiness, joy, and congratulations which has transcended all cultures and is used globally billions of times every day, the High-Five.
Despite being referred to as “the life of the team,” Burke was abruptly traded to the Oakland A’s in 1979 where homophobic manager, Billy Martin introduced him in the clubhouse to his new team as the “faggot.” With a batting average of .237, he was released from his contract a year later.
“Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn’t changing.”
Burke spent his retirement living in San Francisco. He suffered from drug addiction; a car accident in 1987 crushed his leg and foot; and years of homeless. In 1995, Glenn Burke died of AIDS — he was 42 years old.
Twenty-seven years later, the Dodgers paid tribute to Glenn Burke at their 9th annual Pride Night with his brother and sisters on the field and rainbow family in the stands. From ABC News Good Morning America,
Read our previous Pride Month 2022 posts