Glenn Burke played 225 games over parts of four seasons in Major League Baseball, and even appeared in the 1977 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. An outfielder who also played for the Oakland A's, Burke had two career home runs.
But he certainly left a legacy off the field.
Burke was the first and only major leaguer known to have been out to his teammates and team owners during his career. He is one of two known gays to have ever played in the majors; the other was Billy Bean.
Burke died from AIDS-related causes in 1995 at age 42.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area has produced a one-hour documentary, "Out. The Glenn Burke Story," which will air commercial-free on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. PT.
Comcast delivers a home run.
"Out: The Glenn Burke Story" encompasses his roller-coaster life, from his exceptional, multi-sport career at Berkeley High School, through his brief run in the majors, his demons ( drugs, alcohol, and time in prison ) off the field, to his dying days.
Emotions are plenty; tears will flow.
" [ The documentary ] tells a story of a man who basically lived an uncompromising life and wasn't afraid to be who he was, and unfortunately he paid the consequences for it. It's a great story and gives us some lessons from when we don't accept people," said Ted Griggs, the vice president and general manager for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area who served as the documentary's executive producer.
The idea for the documentary came from Griggs, who has had a manila folder for years with his 1995 obituary.
"I've always wanted to tell his story," Griggs said. "I grew up in Hayward, near where [ Burke ] is from and I knew of him as a high school basketball player. I sort of followed his career because he was one of the guys from this area.
"I know then that someday, someone was going to do a great documentary or movie about his life."
Comcast delivered. "Out" tells the tumultuous story of the wedge that was driven between Burke and the Los Angeles Dodgers' management, the ensuing similar situation in Oakland that led to Burke's abrupt retirement and the hero's welcome he received in San Francisco's Castro District after he left baseball.
The documentary tells of his days in the San Francisco gay softball league, including his induction to the San Francisco Gay Softball Association Hall of Fame in 1992. And also that he participated in the Gay Games.
Burke officially came out in a 1982 Inside Sports magazine article and on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, though many inside baseball already knew or speculated about his sexual orientation.
"Glenn Burke is a great story anywhere, but definitely more meaningful in the Bay Area because he's one of our guys," Griggs said. "The social and political climate of the San Francisco Bay Area is different from other places in the U.S., and they probably will be more receptive to this story here [ than elsewhere ] , but I think it's a great story nonetheless."
Comcast started research for the documentary last May, and did interviews through the summer. Comcast spoke with childhood friends, coaches, newspaper reporters, front-office executives and former major leagues. Many former major leaguers, including Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, former Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday, as well as Reggie Smith, Claudell Washington, Davey Lopes, Mike Norris, and Billy Beane, among others.
Griggs said the toughest challenge was finding people who had intimate relations with Burke, or past partners of his. Unfortunately, most of them have passed away.
"What I took from some of the players, as I looked into their eyes, was them saying, 'You don't understand what it was like 33 years ago, the way people thought [ about gay people ] ," Griggs said. But, "When people get to know others, and appreciate them, any pre-judgment kind of goes away and they accept people as people. And to me, that was refreshing.
"The thing that I took out of [ the documentary ] more than anything else was that Glenn Burke was not afraid to be himself and he paid the consequences for that, yet, from the people we spoke to, he never felt sorry for himself."
Griggs said Comcast officials tried to contact former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who had a gay son, but did not get a response. "Most everyone else [ we wanted, ] we got," Griggs said.
No one rejected the interview request.
After the documentary airs in the Bay Area, it will be offered to other egional Comcast stations; however, there are licensing issues regarding some of the documentaries' footage, so it might not be available anywhere but in the Bay Area.
For more information on the Glenn Burke documentary, go to: www.CSNBayArea.com/pages/out.