Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baseball's First Openly Gay Player: Glenn Burke

Yesterday, NBA player Jason Collins announced that he is a homosexual, thus becoming the first ever player from the four major sports leagues(NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL) to say it publicly during his career.  I personally commend him for his courage and openness for letting everyone know and should get support from many.
For the game of baseball, the first openly gay player was Glenn Burke.  Burke was an outfielder from 1976-79 with Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.  He didn't declare his sexually publicly until after his playing days were over, but was open with his teammates and owners about it.  Most weren't bothered by Burke's homosexuality, but some were.  Burke wrote in his 1995 autobiography, "Out at Home", that Dodgers GM Al Campanis offered to pay for his honeymoon if Burke would get married to a woman.  Burke refused.
1978 Topps
Burke was eventually traded to Oakland which brought rumors that it was a homophobic based deal.  He later hurt his knee and was released during the 1979 season.  During a comeback attempt in 1980, Burke was introduced to his teammates by Oakland manager Billy Martin as a "faggot".  Burke never did play for Oakland or any other big league team again.  He said in autobiography that "prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner that I should have. But I wasn't changing". So his career ended at age of 27 after playing in 225 career games.  He said of his brief career, "they can't ever say now that a gay man can't play in the majors, because I am gay and made it".
Burke later died of AIDS related causes in 1995 and OF Billy Bean(1987-95) is the only other former MLB to announce he is gay.  One other sidenote on Glenn Burke, in 1977, after teammate Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run, Burke went out in the field to congratulate Baker and put his hand up. Baker slapped his open hand and the "high five" was believed to be invented.
Hopefully with the announcement of Collins, no player should be worried about being mistreated or judged anymore because of his/her sexuality and go through what Glenn Burke did.   A person should only be judged how he/she performs in the workplace including the athletic fields and not by the color of skin, age or sex of a person or the lifestyle they lead.  I know we are not there yet as a society, but I think we are moving in the right direction.


  1. "In Oakland, A's manager Billy Martin introduced Burke to his new team as a "faggot" and didn't give him a lot of playing time during the season." Billy Martin never managed Glenn Burke. Look it up.

  2. You are right and I am sorry. He never officially played for Martin. The quote was made during a comeback attempt in 1980. I corrected it and thank you for pointing out my error