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“Out: The Glenn Burke Story” to air on Versus on Tuesday

Aug 4, 2011, 5:13 PM EDT

Glenn Burke

We first wrote about the Glenn Burke documentary last year when it made its premiere on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.  Now it’s getting a national showing on Versus on Tuesday, August 9th at 10PM.

For those unaware, Glenn Burke was the first and, as far as we know, the only gay player to be out of the closet to his teammates and team ownership during his major league career.  His is, not surprisingly, a complicated story as well in that Burke and many close to him believed that he was run out of the league because of it. Maybe that’s true. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that his performance didn’t justify a place for him on a major league roster. Or it could have been a combination of the two.

But whatever the case, Burke’s place in history is undeniable. As I wrote last year, there have been over 6,000 players who have cycled through the big leagues since Burke left. The odds that none of them save Bill Bean (who came out after his career was over) were gay are more or less impossible.  That Burke is, to this day, one of a kind is both intriguing and regrettable.

I haven’t seen the Burke documentary, but I heard good things about it.  If you have a chance and the inclination, tune in to Versus next Tuesday night to check it out.

  1. SmackSaw - Aug 4, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    Burke and Tom “Spunky” LaSorda Jr. were good buddies. It’s one of the reasons Burke was dealt to Oakland.

    • IdahoMariner - Aug 5, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      I actually love being reminded about LaSorda, Jr. — growing up in LA (yes, I am IdahoMariner, but I grew up in California), my older (gay) brother used to tell me they ran in the same circles, they weren’t friends but were friendly acquaintances (and with gay men in the seventies and eighties, it’s impossible to know which definition of “friendly” he might have meant), but it’s not like he could take me to the bar (as his 12-year-old sister) to introduce me to him, so I always wondered if it was true. It’s kind of fun to get confirmation that my brother wasn’t just telling me stories (although I still don’t believe the one about he and Louganis before the 84 olympics — my brother was cute, but not that cute. Sorry, bro.).

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 4, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Oddly enough, no one has come out on the HBT comments yet that I’m aware of…odd, seems like the perfect venue to exit the closet.

    • halladaysbiceps - Aug 4, 2011 at 5:53 PM

      I’m coming out……as….a….baseball fan!

    • IdahoMariner - Aug 5, 2011 at 2:54 PM

      It was plenty hard to decide to “out” myself as a woman in the comments…and HBT has, far and away, the best commenters of any baseball site I have found. It hasn’t impacted me negatively so far (still more proof that HBT’s commenters rock), but it was a tough decision nonetheless. So, yeah, perfect venue, but still daunting.

  3. skerney - Aug 4, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    It is an certainty that one day there will be an “Out” player on a major sports team roster. After all the hoopla and hatred, the fans will still cheer him, the teammates will go to battle with him, and it will be the same as when Jackie Robinson entered the Major leagues. Those with hearts full of intolerance will stay away, but the real fans will cheer him because they know that the quality of a man is based upon his character, and the worth of a player is based on his performance not upon who he loves. I know a Pee Wee Reese will emerge, put his arm around his teammate, and let us all know that it’s ok that gay men play pro sports. I mean they always have, just in secret.

    • JBerardi - Aug 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      Gay people are serving openly in the military and we’ve STILL got no openly gay athletes? Sports are officially lagging behind every other segment of our culture on this issue. Kind of sad, really.

      • kiwicricket - Aug 4, 2011 at 8:37 PM

        Unfortunately it seems that North America’s sporting codes are lagging behind the most. Welsh International rugby players, Australian Rugby league and English cricketers have taken that bold step several years ago. These guys are playing for a professional club, but have also made the next step up to the elite few to represent their entire country. I really hope athletes in the US and Canada can look to these guys for inspiration.

      • JBerardi - Aug 4, 2011 at 9:18 PM

        Rugby players are class acts. Well, kinda. Sometimes.

      • kiwicricket - Aug 4, 2011 at 9:26 PM

        Mostly Neanderthals, so guys in the NFL might be more able to relate? I’m talking sexuality, not citizenship, but I get your point though.

  4. elbow212 - Aug 4, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    The odds that none of them save Bill Bean (who came out after his career was over) were gay are more or less impossible.

    Well, duh. And if anyone wants to question Mr. Calcaterra, I have a life long friend who is gay, and has dated two former MLB players, one of whom had a pretty nice career. I’m sure not every gay man has a MLB notch or two on the bedpost, but considering 3.5% of Americans currently openly identify as homosexual, and as Craig said, there have been 6000 players in the majors since Burke, you don’t need to take my word for it.

    • jwbiii - Aug 4, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      Well, duh. I have a long time friend who is gay, and has dated a former MLB player, (although current at the time) who had a pretty nice career.

      And I bet he’s not one of your friend’s friends. But the former player is not out, so don’t even ask.

  5. mgflolox - Aug 4, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    Burke is also credited with being the man that invented the high-five. As I remember reading in the late, lamented Inside Sports, he slapped Dusty Baker with a high one at home plate after he followed Cey & Garvey’s longballs with one of his own.

  6. taz101 - Aug 5, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    Ball players coming out?? Jerry Meals says its safe!!!

  7. angrycorgi - Aug 5, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    I wonder how many baseball players are into beastiality, but are afraid to make it public. Is there a documentary on that somewhere? How about the players that are closet pedophiles?

    • Matt D. - Aug 5, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      Yeah, because a relationship between two consenting adults is totally the same as both of those things. Please spare us your hateful and desperately illogical nonsense.

  8. deathmonkey41 - Aug 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    I have no problem with players coming out of the closet, but I would have a problem with someone admitting that they’re happy Red Dawn is being remade. That player should be shunned and blacklisted from society even after death.

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