Major League Baseball to Honor Late Gay Player Glenn Burke at All-Star Game


MLB player Glenn Burke, who spent his career closeted before coming out as gay in 1982, will be honored by the League at Tuesday's All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Burke died in 1994 of AIDS-related causes. There is still no openly gay player in professional baseball.

The NYT reports:

“He was a pioneer, and should be recognized,” Pat Courtney, a Major League Baseball spokesman, said.

Attending the game will be Lutha Burke, one of Glenn Burke’s five surviving siblings, who cared for Burke in his final months as he withered and died from the effects of AIDS, and her daughter Alice Rose. Burke died in 1995.

“It was overdue, and Glenn has a story that needs to be told,” Lutha Burke, 66, said over a cup of coffee, sitting beside Rose. “Glenn wouldn’t be upset that it took this long. He’d just say, ‘It’s about time you guys showed up.’ ”

Another announcement will be made at the game as well:

The league will also announce that Billy Bean, who played six seasons in the majors and came out publicly in 1999, four years after he retired, will work with the league on its inclusion efforts.

Read the full NYT article on Burke here.

A documentary on Burke's life premiered back in 2010. You can watch the trailer HERE.

The SF Chronicle wrote at the time about Burke's experience:

"Burke made little secret of his sexuality during his time with the Dodgers and A's in the late 1970s. Several former teammates contend this bothered management of both clubs, to the point where the Dodgers traded Burke to Oakland and then-A's manager Billy Martin later ridiculed him in front of his teammates. He abruptly retired from baseball in 1980, publicly revealed his homosexuality two years later and landed in San Francisco's Castro district, where he initially was welcomed warmly. But his life there eventually spun out of control, sending him spiraling toward drug use, prison time and AIDS. He died of complications from the disease in May 1995, at age 42."


  1. TampaZeke says

    The NFL and the NBA now have openly gay players. This is MLB’s attempt to look like they have (or at least had) one too.

  2. Mike in the Tundra says

    Well, the MLB certainly has some gays. When I lived in Baltimore, there was an Oriole who was well known for the steady stream of young men knocking on his door. He was one of the hottest guys I have ever seen.

  3. Rowan says

    Oh, this makes me cry. Well the bit about how his sister went looking for him on the streets of SF to take care of him.

    What a human being she is.

  4. CPT_Doom says

    Burke’s story isn’t all tragic. He also invented the high five. Mike in the tundra – I live in DC and the player you mentioned – who may be the only retired athlete who got into better shape after he left the game – is the worst kept secret in baseball. The joke in Baltimore was that he retired because there wasn’t any hot guys left for him to f*ck. He did look fabulous at his teammates’ Hall of Fame induction.

  5. ratbastard says

    What a tragic, sad story. He certainly should be recognized, and also by the gay community at large. And his sister sounds like a beautiful human being.

  6. Chitown Kev says

    Good for MLB (and great for Burke and his family) but now I’m all caught up in the droplettes of tea being spilled about Baltimore Orioles of the past, lol.

    I know who I think it is…would said Oriole also happen to be a Hall of Famer?

  7. TonyJazz says

    Knowing Glenn fairly well, his last years were pretty rough. He wasn’t an easy person to get along with, but he was an outstanding athlete (basketball-wise, as well as baseball).

    He had thighs that were a foot and a half thick. He dunked easily as a result.

    A tragic loss to AIDS…

    Good for baseball for honoring him!!!!

  8. says

    Great that Burke’s success as a player and tragic end are finally being given the high profile attention he deserves. But the SF Chronicle assertion that “Burke made little secret of his sexuality during his time with the Dodgers and A’s in the late 1970s,” is nonsense.

    The fact is, as Burke confirmed himself, was that he never told anyone in sports that he was gay when he was playing. In the October 1982 “Inside Sports” article that officially outed him publicly, called, “The Double Life of a Gay Dodger,” (written by his then lover) Burke said, emphasis mine: “I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable, so I faded away. My teammates’ wives might have been threatened by a gay man in the locker room. I could have been a superstar but I was too worried about protecting everybody else from knowing. If I thought I could be accepted, I’d be there now. It is the first thing in my life I ever backed down from. No, I’m not disappointed in myself, I’m disappointed in the system. Your sex should be private, AND I ALWAYS KEPT IT THAT WAY.”

    Eric Sherman, who interviewed Burke repeatedly over a year for his authorized biography, “Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story,” wrote that “he was forced out of the Dodgers’ organization AFTER BEING OUTED.” Emphasis mine. 1994 interviews with Burke the year before he died confirm this further, emphasis mine: “Though Burke NEVER talked about his sexual orientation to his family or teammates, word got around.” – 1994 People magazine interview. “He was adamant that the baseball community would never find out. … ‘I COULDN’T LET ANYBODY KNOW who I really was’, Burke said.” – 1994 New York Times interview.

    “Once Burke realized he was gay, he understood that it was taboo to talk about it in the clubhouse. ‘I just knew what I had to do. Play baseball, STAY QUIET, and live my life’. … Burke went to nightclubs with his teammates, dined with them, and never let on. A few players eventually FOUND OUT Burke’s secret. Cleo Smith, a minor-leaguer with the Dodgers who grew up near Burke knew about his lifestyle and mentioned it to several others.” – 1994 Associated Press interview.

  9. says

    There is a film about Glenn Burke available online today.

    30 for 30 Shorts: “The High Five” premieres today on
    Digital film tells the story of Glenn Burke and his “invention” of the high five gesture

    “The High Five” can be viewed here:

    The gesture of the high five is not only popular within sports but is given as a sign of approval and celebration the world over. This 30 for 30 Short will explore the origins and nuances of the high five, bringing to life the unique legacy of the gesture and the story of one of its unsung originators. “The High Five,” directed by Michael Jacobs, tell the story of Glenn Burke and his rise as a baseball prodigy, his time in the majors and the spontaneous “invention” of the gesture. Using this moment, the story then pivots to chronicle the simultaneous spread of the high five as both a celebratory and political gesture alongside Burke’s professional and personal decline amidst rumors of his sexual orientation. “The High Five” can be viewed here:
    (To embed, use code here:

    Previous films from the Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 Shorts series can all be viewed on ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts series is artfully crafted by Blue Moon.

    Michael Jacobs is an award winning filmmaker whose 2007 feature documentary “Audience of One” won jury awards at SXSW, Silverdocs, and screened at the prestigious New Directors/New Films showcase before going on to theatrical release and a premiere on Sundance Channel. In 2009, Jacobs created the web series “American Dreamers” for Sony Pictures Television where it received a Webby Award in non-fiction.

    For more information, please contact: Jay Jay Nesheim at