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The sad story of Glenn Burke


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#1 jose melendez


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:22 AM

I was listening to an episode of Radiolab yesterday called "Patient Zero" and they had a story about who invented the high five. One of the contenders was a guy named Glenn Burke who had been a centerfielder for the Dodgers.

Apparently, Burke was gay, and the Dodgers offered him $75,000 to get married. When he refused, they traded him to the A's where his manager, the always classy Billy Martin, would introduce him to people as "Glenn Burke the faggot."
Versus has a piece on it.

For those who were old enough to understand then, was there any awareness of this in the baseball community?

I was stunned that I'd never heard this story before. That said the claims that he was billed as the "next Willie Mays" seem a bit much given his terrible numbers. Also, the story's claim that he was traded for nothing (Bill North had a better OPS+ than Burke) also don't hold up.

Also, to hell with Billy Martin.

#2 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:24 AM

I've heard of this before. "I ain't playing no faggots" or something similar was the quote I read from Billy.

#3 DrewDawg


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:42 AM

Sad story. There were plenty of baseball reasons not to play Burke (.270 lifetime OBP, SLG below .300) but, as you said, Martin was a classy guy...one wonders how his treatment by others in the game held him back.

#4 Average Reds


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:06 PM

Sad story. There were plenty of baseball reasons not to play Burke (.270 lifetime OBP, SLG below .300) but, as you said, Martin was a classy guy...one wonders how his treatment by others in the game held him back.


I think that's really the relevent issue. It could be that his career numbers were an accurate reflection of his talent, but we'll never know.

I wish I knew where Billy Martin was buried so I could piss on his grave.

#5 RingoOSU


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:15 PM

Burial:
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Hawthorne
Westchester County
New York, USA
Plot: Section 25, Plot 21, Grave 3, in the same section as Babe Ruth
http://www.findagrav...ge=gr&GRid=1439

#6 Average Reds


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:18 PM

Burial:
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Hawthorne
Westchester County
New York, USA
Plot: Section 25, Plot 21, Grave 3, in the same section as Babe Ruth
http://www.findagrav...ge=gr&GRid=1439


Awesome. A two-fer.

And I actually know exactly where that is. Wonder if you can sneak in at night?

#7 AlNipper49


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:21 PM

Posted Image
It will be a long time before Sgt. Wendell Baker calls someone 'Private Homo' again

#8 CJM

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:44 PM

Another crazy detail from that episode was that the Dodgers offered him $75,000 to get married. Apparently he responded, "You mean to a woman?"

Although not as extroverted with his prejuidice as Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda didn't cover himself with glory in handling Burke's homosexuality either. There's a very good essay called "Tangled up in Blue" by Peter Richmond about Tommy Lasorda Jr., who was openly gay. It's a tragic story, and Tommy Sr. doesn't come across as the model of tolerance.

<sidenote: Radiolab's great. Their recent episode on the evil that men do, The Bad Show, was excellent.>

#9 Brickowski

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:53 PM

Awesome. A two-fer.

And I actually know exactly where that is. Wonder if you can sneak in at night?


Can't you piss in daylight?

#10 Average Reds


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 01:08 PM

Can't you piss in daylight?


Stage fright.

#11 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 27 January 2012 - 11:07 PM

Well, he wasn't going to be Willie Mays but I suppose he had a shot at being Lou Brock.
In 1976, the first season in which he played in the majors, he batted .300/.321/.424 in the Pacific Coast League in AAA, a hitter's league. He also stole 63 bases and was only caught 13 times.

In less than a half season in AAA the next year, he hit .309/.372/.505 with 20 steals and 5 times caught. He might've been a dynamic leadoff guy, maybe a double dose of speed along with Davey Lopes. But he never got it going at the major league level.

#12 MuzzyField

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 12:21 AM

He also played for Waterbury in the Eastern League in 1975. He was the best player on the team at least as far as this then 8-year-old could tell (he only hit .270). I also failed to recognize the future managerial "talents" of Terry Collins and Jim Riggleman on that team. I remember reading a magazine article about him when I was in high school, not sure whether it was in SI, Inside Sports, Sport or The Sporting News. It was cetainly an eye opening read at the time.

#13 soxhop411


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Posted 24 February 2014 - 04:47 PM

This was in an October 1982 (for a news piece in 1982 it seems way ahead of its time) issue of Inside Sports. (deadspin brought it up again today)

 

http://thestacks.dea...dium=socialflow

 

Really nice read (and its long)


Edited by soxhop411, 24 February 2014 - 04:49 PM.


#14 hbk72777

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 07:04 PM

Another crazy detail from that episode was that the Dodgers offered him $75,000 to get married. Apparently he responded, "You mean to a woman?"

Although not as extroverted with his prejuidice as Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda didn't cover himself with glory in handling Burke's homosexuality either. There's a very good essay called "Tangled up in Blue" by Peter Richmond about Tommy Lasorda Jr., who was openly gay. It's a tragic story, and Tommy Sr. doesn't come across as the model of tolerance.

<sidenote: Radiolab's great. Their recent episode on the evil that men do, The Bad Show, was excellent.>

 

 

I bought Lasorda's bio cheap on Amazon. You wouldn't even know he had a son after reading it. He only talks about his daughter.



#15 Orel Miraculous

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 08:43 PM

With all of the fanfare that Jason Collins is receiving as the apparent "first openly gay player in a major sport", is Glen Burke's legacy getting shafted here? From all accounts, it seems that all of his teammates and coaches knew he was gay. It also seems that he made little to no effort to hide his sexuality. Maybe the media didn't report it (likely because they were disgusted by it--not because they didn't know), but it seems to me that it's Burke who should officially be recognized as the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes. 



#16 HriniakPosterChild

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 11:31 PM

Perhaps Burke should be recognized as the Moses Fleetwood Walker of gay athletes.

 

--

Edit: typo


Edited by HriniakPosterChild, 24 February 2014 - 11:32 PM.


#17 Orel Miraculous

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 07:56 AM

I mean, the more I think about it, the more I think we're whitewashing history here. Burke was openly gay. He didn't hide it. But his story is dark, and sad, and it reveals the ugly side of human nature so we don't tell it. Jason Collins's story, on the other hand, is happy, and triumphant, and it show's how great we all are, so people rightly want to celebrate it. But in reality, I don't see how Burke wasn't the first openly gay player, and, ultimately, I think his story is one that needs to be told.


Edited by Orel Miraculous, 25 February 2014 - 07:58 AM.


#18 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 25 February 2014 - 09:18 AM

I mean, the more I think about it, the more I think we're whitewashing history here. Burke was openly gay. He didn't hide it. But his story is dark, and sad, and it reveals the ugly side of human nature so we don't tell it. Jason Collins's story, on the other hand, is happy, and triumphant, and it show's how great we all are, so people rightly want to celebrate it. But in reality, I don't see how Burke wasn't the first openly gay player, and, ultimately, I think his story is one that needs to be told.

 

Burke did not come out as gay publicly, which is a distinction worth noting. He wasn't as openly gay as you're painting him, at least by today's standards. And frankly the story is being told; in the wake of the Collins achievement there have been several stories about Burke written this week.

 

There's a comment on the Deadspin story from a photographer that knew him, who relays that Burke asked him not to take his picture when the photographer was covering a charity basketball game between gay athletes and SF Firemen. He also says Burke was really traded from LA because Burke dated Lasorda's son.



#19 Soxfan in Fla


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Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:14 PM

Burke did not come out as gay publicly, which is a distinction worth noting. He wasn't as openly gay as you're painting him, at least by today's standards. And frankly the story is being told; in the wake of the Collins achievement there have been several stories about Burke written this week.
 
There's a comment on the Deadspin story from a photographer that knew him, who relays that Burke asked him not to take his picture when the photographer was covering a charity basketball game between gay athletes and SF Firemen. He also says Burke was really traded from LA because Burke dated Lasorda's son.

So he didn't dress like Johnny Weir?

#20 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 25 February 2014 - 01:15 PM

So he didn't dress like Johnny Weir?

 

As if that's required for someone to come out of the closet. Please.

 

He certainly did not openly label himself as a gay man, likely knowing full well that doing so would pretty much end his baseball career. The long story linked above, written in 1982, was written after Burke was out of baseball, and alludes to him hiding his sexuality from his teammates as a younger player.

 

Burke was certainly courageous to play while hiding his sexuality from his teammates, much like Billy Bean did.






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