1952 - 1995

“They can’t ever say that a gay man can’t play in the Majors, because I’m a gay man and I did it.”

- Glenn Burke

Described by many of the scouts as the next Willie Mays, Glenn Burke played major league ball with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1976-1978) and later with the Oakland Athletics (1978-1979).  In the 225 games of his brief career Burke batted .237, hit 2 home runs, had 38 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.  In 1977, after Dusty Baker hit a home run, Burke – who was the on-deck batter – gave Baker a high-five as he left the field and has since been credited with inventing the gesture. Burke is believed to be the first major league ball player to be outed to his teammates and the owners while he was still playing. Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda was angered by Burke’s friendship with his gay son; and General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if the outfielder would just get married. (Burke refused.) With tensions growing in the clubhouse, Burke was traded to Oakland, where he saw little playing time and was forced to endure manager Billy Martin referring to him as a “faggot” in front of his teammates. Unable to cope any longer, Burke quit the team. At the age of 27 his dream of a being a major league baseball player was over after only four seasons.  Of this experience he later wrote, “Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn’t changing.” The years following Burke’s premature departure from the sport – rife with drug problems, homelessness and criminal convictions – marked a bitter fall from grace.  In 1982 his homosexuality was made public in an ‘Inside Sports’ article – the same year he won 2 medals for track in the first Gay Games.  Burke died of complications from HIV in 1995 at the age of 42.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity African American Black

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980)

Field(s) of Contribution


Commemorations & Honors

First Out Active Baseball Player (To His Teammates and Managers)

Credited With Inventing the High-Five (1977)

Won Medals at the First Gay Games in the 100 and 200 Meter Sprints (1982)

Inside Sports Magazine Article Revealed Burke Was Gay to the Public (1982)

Posthumous National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame Inductee (2013)

2014 All-Star Game Honored Burke at a Pre-Game Press Conference- Note the Fox Broadcast Failed to Mention His Name (2014)

Oakland Athletics Honored Burke During Their Pride Night With Burke's Brother Sydney Throwing Out the Ceremonial First Pitch (2015)

San Francisco Rainbow Honor Walk Honoree (2018)

Los Angeles Dodgers Honor Burke at Ninth Annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night (2022)


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Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell