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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Major League Baseball recognizing Glenn Burke's legacy
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2014-07-15

This article shared 3969 times since Tue Jul 15, 2014
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At one of the biggest events of the Major League Baseball season, the league is honoring former player Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's in the 1970s, was gay, and died in 1995 at the age of 42 due to complications from AIDS.

The New York Times reported that, as part of a concerted effort to demonstrate an atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion, the league invited Burke's family to Tuesday's All-Star Game in Minneapolis—its first official recognition of Burke's early role in a movement just now gaining traction across the sports landscape.

"He was a pioneer, and should be recognized," Pat Courtney, a Major League Baseball spokesman, told the Times.

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, will be at the game, the Times reported.

Plus, the league will 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. Bean was in Chicago this past weekend to be inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame and attend Out At Wrigley.

An outfielder who played a combined 225 major league games, Burke made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1976. His final season in the majors was in 1979 with the A's. He was a lifetime .237 hitter with two home runs.

He was, arguably, best known—and credited with—inventing the high-five. In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker after Baker hit a home run. Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from third base. Not knowing what to do about the upraised hand, Baker slapped it.

Burke was among the first class of inductees in 2013 into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

"I think it's great that pro leagues are taking steps to assure that pioneers are honored," said Anthony Nicodemo, an openly gay high school basketball coach in New York. "The visibility of these actions will allow many of our youth to be more comfortable in their own skin and understand that they can succeed in athletics."

Anthony Alfano, 23, a Chicago area native who graduated from DePaul University and was the school's first openly gay student body president, added: "MLB's recognition to honor Glenn Burke as a gay pioneer speaks to the progress we have made as a community and society as a whole. This recognition demonstrates the strides the LGBT community has made in professional sports, as well as the willingness by professional sports organizations to support and honor all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation.

"While there is still much work to do, it is becoming clear that sexual orientation is used less as a basis to judge a person for their work, and instead on his or her talent, determination and drive."

Alfano, who now lives in Uptown, is a member of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ) and the team's vice president.

Erik Sherman, who co-authored Burke's 1995 memoir, Out At Home, appeared Tuesday morning, July 15, on MSNBC. He said that "with Major League Baseball now stepping up to the plate and making it easier with their announcement today, I would really be surprised if, at this time next year, we don't have a ball player [who] has come out; I'd be surprised," if an active player doesn't announce he is gay.

The MSNBC host tagged the Burke story as "powerful" and added, "sadly, he's not here to feel and hear the praise, and maybe even hear from other athletes that his life inspired."


This article shared 3969 times since Tue Jul 15, 2014
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