Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bo's Giant Lot O' Cards Part 2: Glenn Burke

This one card post centers on Glenn Burke,
A man primarily known for two things, one of which is funny/cool, one of which is serious but something I wanted to share:

1. He may or may not have have been the inventor of the high five (with Dusty Baker) in 1977. Victor Sleets vehemently disagrees, claiming he was high-fiving as far back as the 60's. Really I'm just astonished that the high-five has only been around that long! Older members of the blog-o-sphere, what did you do instead of high-fiving when you were kids?

2. More important to me personally (as I'm a major advocate of LGBT causes), Glenn Burke has been the only openly gay baseball player in the history of the sport. I was actually wondering if there had ever been an openly gay baseball player a few weeks ago and found Burke through Google. I then found out that there is a documentary coming out about Burke's life on November 10th, with some great interviews with Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes. And then Burke's card came in with Bo's trade lot, so now I have one of the dude's cards. Awesome!

Less awesome, however, is the tragic story of Burke's playing career, which was marred with intolerance and misunderstanding. One Dodgers GM offered Burke a $75,000 bonus to get married to a woman, which Burke rightly turned down. Tommy Lasorda disliked Burke for his relationship with Lasorda's estranged gay son Spunky, who died in 1991 without ever being accepted by his father (Lasorda even denies Spunky had aids, claiming instead that he died of cancer). And even when Burke was traded away from the Dodgers (much to the chagrin of many of his teammates such as Davey Lopes and Dusty Baker, who supported Burke and believed he was traded due to his sexuality) to the Athletics for an over the hill Bill North, things were still not great, with Billy Martin openly calling him faggot in front of the entire team. So following 1979, Burke retired from baseball after a mere 4 years in the league. He never got over his early departure from the game he loved, and ended up turning to drugs to fill the pain, which inevitably led to Burke's death from AIDS in 1995. For a guy who was once compared to Willie Mays by a Dodgers Coach, this was certainly not the ending most people saw coming - instead of those high hopes, Burke exists as an example of the damage that intolerance can bring to a human life.

Of course, the point of this post is not to vilify the Dodgers or Athletics for their treatment of Burke, who likely would have had a similar career with any team in the very different from today late 70's. Instead, I just wanted to share this story of what Burke overcame to play the sport he loved, as I'm very surprised to have never heard it before, and I'm sure a few of you hadn't heard it as well. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in when others are staunchly against your beliefs, especially to the point that they will pay you to change them. So kudos to Burke for not compromising his beliefs, even though it must've been hard as hell to do so.

And as a final, semi-related note, Steve Garvey was safe!


  1. You will find this interesting (and it's a great sports name, too):