Well, Burke was a former Dodgers draftee who is thought to be the first person involved in the high-five, and regardless of what you've read recently, Burke was also the first professional sports athlete to come out of the closet to both his teammates and management. Jason Collins, on the other hand, was the first athlete to do that and make it publicly known while still working his trade.
Well, via Mike Fleming Jr at Deadline Hollywood we learn that a biopic on his life may soon be produced, and it's likely that Collins recent admission has a lot to do with that. Per Fleming's article.
Long before veteran hoops player Jason Collins made a groundbreaking announcement this week that he is a gay athlete, there was former Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s 70s phenom outfielder Glenn Burke. Burke, who right up front made his teammates and team management aware he was gay, back when this was really taboo. Post-retirement, he became the first baseball player to come out publicly, during a Today Show interview with Bryant Gumbel in 1982. Jamie Lee Curtis and JUMA Entertainment are hoping the attention being paid to Collins will provide momentum for a story she has been trying for years to tell about Burke, based on Out At Home: The Glenn Burke Story, the autobiography written by Burke with Erik Sherman.There something remarkable about how the Dodgers seem to always have some involvement in socially significant changes. Heck, it's something that this Dodger fan has a great appreciation for.
(Hat Tip: Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress)
UPDATE: I thought it would be appropriate to add that Burke's stay with the Dodgers was hardly sunflowers and lemonade. In fact, you could say that his time with the Dodgers was anything but that. So, the Dodgers franchise was hardly a hero in the Glenn Burke life story. I think it's pretty clear that homophobia played a large part in his eventual trade and lack of playing time. From wikipedia:
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, he received little playing time in the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Upon taking the managerial reins in 1980, manager Billy Martin used the word "faggot" in the clubhouse and some teammates avoided showering with him. 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 1980.UPDATE II: I've just been told that Comcast SportsNet Bay Area made a documentary on the life of Glenn Burke that aired in 2010 called "Out". Here is a press release for the documentary. Below is a trailer to the documentary. If anyone knows where I can watch it please pass that along.
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