A new documentary will soon air that chronicles the life of Glenn Burke, the Black former superstar centerfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers who was the first and only Major League Baseball player known to have been out to his teammates and team owners during his professional career. Burke died from AIDS-related causes in 1995. He was only 43 years old.
Out. The Glenn Burke Story will premiere at a public screening at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, November 10. The film will be replayed exclusively on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. The documentary will tell the story of Burke's rapid "descent from the World Series to being traded to the Athletics to a voluntary retirement and down into the abyss of drug abuse, homelessness, and AIDS that eventually took his life," notes Bleacher Report.
Featuring interviews with Dodger teammates Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes and Rick Monday, among others, as well as A's teammates Claudell Washington, Mike Norris, and Shooty Babitt, Out gets into the nitty-gritty of Burke's athletic and post-athletic career. According to almost everyone interviewed, Burke was run out of baseball because he was gay. The Dodgers apparently offered to pay for his wedding and honeymoon if he got married, and when he refused, he was promptly traded to the Athletics. The situation was no better there with manager Billy Martin, and Burke took a leave of absence from the team to clear his head.
When he decided to come back, it was starkly clear to him that, while he still loved baseball and obviously had the physical tools to play the game, there was no place for a gay man in professional baseball. Burke then took the celebrity that he did have and played it up, spending a majority of his time in San Francisco's famed Castro District. Yet his fame ran out, and his party lifestyle turned into one of drug abuse. The tragedy was compounded when Burke contracted AIDS in 1994. But in the last years of his life, the same game of baseball that abandoned him came back to support him in his greatest time of need.
Glenn Burke is still regarded as the first and only player in the big four (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) to come out as gay to his teammates while he was still playing.
The A's Billy Martin called Burke faggot in front of his teammates. "By 1978 I think everybody knew," Glenn Burke later said, adding that he was "sure his teammates didn't care." Management at the Dodgers and A's detested Burke's sexuality, but, according to most reports and the interviews in Out. The Glenn Burke Story, the teammates did not care. Fascinating ... especially because we're talking professional sports in the late 1970s
Former Dodgers teammate Reggie Smith learned about Burke's sexuality (and off-the-field antics) through another player. Here's a clip when he discusses it and stresses that he did not want the information to become public or it would "destroy his career", WATCH AFTER THE JUMP ...