Glenn Lawrence Burke




"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 Lawrence Burke (November 16, 1952 – May 30, 1995) was a Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979. 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 was considered capable of being a professional basketball player, but his first offer came from Major League Baseball. When he began 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 being called up to the major league club. Burke's 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. Burke refused to participate in the sham, allegedly responding, "to a woman?" He also angered Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North, by some accounts a much less talented player, suggesting homophobia was behind the trade. There, manager Billy Martin introduced him as a "faggot" 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. 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. "My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked."

 In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker after hitting his thirtieth home run in the last game of the regular season by raising 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. Burke's homosexuality became public knowledge in a 1982 article published by Inside Sports magazine. 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.