HRC Blog

Glenn Burke Recognized for Pioneering Role in Major League Baseball

Glenn Burke, the former outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics, was honored posthumously at Tuesday’s MLB All-Star game for his pioneering role as a gay man in Major League Baseball.

Burke, who played from 1976 to 1979 and is often credited for the invention of the high five, told few he was gay during his time in the MLB, though rumors circulated. He came out publicly in an article for In Sports magazine in 1982, writing: “It’s harder to be gay in sports than anywhere else, except maybe president. Baseball is probably the hardest sport of all.”

After leaving professional baseball, Burke held onto his sports fame, winning medals in the Gay Olympics. But after breaking his leg in a car accident in 1987, Burke spiraled into a cycle of addiction and homelessness. He died of AIDS-related causes in 1995 at the age of 42.

Yesterday Burke’s family accepted honors on his behalf for his pioneering contributions to the sport of baseball. Since Burke’s time in the MLB, no active player has openly come out as gay. Outfielder Billy Bean publicly came out as gay in 1999, four years after retiring from baseball. Yesterday he was appointed as MLB’s first “Ambassador for Inclusion.”

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