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Burke, Glenn (1952-1995)  
page: 1  2  

In May 1978 Burke was traded to the Oakland Athletics. He believed that the Dodgers wanted to be rid of him because he was gay. He later stated that when some of his then-teammates went to the management to protest the trade of the promising young ballplayer, they were informed that his homosexuality was indeed the reason for it, but Campanis, speaking for the Dodgers, denied it.

In Oakland, Burke played for manager Billy Martin, who once said to the Athletics--while looking at Burke--"I don't want no faggot on my team."

Burke was unhappy on the lowly A's, who were having a particularly bad year in 1978. He returned to the team in 1979 but quit after only twenty-three games of the season. In 1980 he decided to try out for the team again but injured his knee in spring training. He spent the season in the minor leagues and then retired, convinced that he was not wanted in baseball.

In the major leagues Burke had a lifetime batting average of .237 in 225 games. He hit two home runs and had 38 runs batted in.

In 1982 Burke finally acceded to his partner Smith's suggestion that he publicly acknowledge his homosexuality. Smith's article in Inside Sports magazine revealed that Burke's sexual orientation was already well known within the baseball community. Davey Lopes, a former teammate on the Dodgers, said, "By 1978 I think that everyone knew."

Players interviewed for the article stated that some team members were uncomfortable with having a gay teammate. They also indicated that it would have been ill-advised for Burke to come out while he was playing. "If it had been out in the open," said Mike Norris of the Oakland Athletics, "there would have been all kinds of problems."

After baseball, Burke's life took a downward turn. He was active in amateur sports for a time, playing in San Francisco's Gay Men's Softball League as well as the 1982 and 1986 Gay Games. However, his amateur playing days came to an end in 1987, when he was hit by a car and suffered a leg injury.

Prepared for no career except sports, Burke tried to eke out a living through a series of odd jobs and eventually turned to panhandling. He had no home and depended on others for shelter, drifting from one friend to another in the Castro. He had also developed a drug habit. In 1988 he was arrested for possession of drugs, and in 1991 he served six months of a sixteen-month sentence for grand theft and possession of a controlled substance. He was later jailed again for parole violations.

In early 1994, Burke learned that he had AIDS. His weight plummeted from a once-robust 220 pounds to 130. His older sister, Lutha Davis, took him in and cared for him during his final illness. He died on May 30, 1995 at the age of forty-two.

Since Burke's disclosure of his homosexuality, only one other major-league baseball player, Billy Bean, has come out; and, like Burke, he waited until after his retirement to do so. Bean, who had been apprehensive about the reaction to his revelation, was pleasantly surprised by the expressions of support that he received from fans and especially from former teammates.

Nevertheless, he feels that life on a professional team could be difficult for an openly gay athlete. In an interview in The Advocate Bean said that [i]t would take someone with the stature of Michael Jordan...[to] break down the barriers in Middle America."

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  Sports: Gay Male

While sports, at least on the major competitive level, may be the final closet for gay men, there have nevertheless been a number of gay male elite athletes.

arts >> Bean, Billy

Former baseball player and current television personality, Billy Bean was closeted throughout his major league career but has since become a proud advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Pallone, Dave

Major league umpire Dave Pallone was outed and forced out of professional baseball; since leaving the game he has become an advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Thomas, Gareth

Acclaimed Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas is among the small number of professional athletes who have found the courage to come out as gay at the height of their careers.


"And the Band Plays On." Sports Illustrated 82.23 (June 12, 1995): 15.

Bull, Chris. "Safe at Home: After Years in the Closet as a Professional Baseball Player, Billy Bean Finds Happiness as an Openly Gay Man." The Advocate 801 (December 21, 1999): 34-42.

Burke, Glenn, and Erik Sherman. Out at Home: The Glenn Burke Story. New York: Excel Publishing, 1995.

Crowe, Jerry. "When Glory Has Soured: Former Dodger Glenn Burke battles AIDS as He Struggles to Survive Life on the Streets." Los Angeles Times (August 30, 1994): C 1.

Frey, Jennifer. "A Boy of Summer's Long, Chilly Winter: Once a Promising Ballplayer, Glenn Burke Is Dying of AIDS." New York Times (October 18, 1994): B 15.

Light, Jonathan Fraser. "Homosexuals." The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball. Jefferson, N. C., and London: McFarland & Company, 1997. 346-347.

"The Outfielder Who Came Out." People Weekly 42. 21 (November 21, 1994): 151.

Smith, Michael J. "The Double Life of a Gay Dodger." Inside Sports (October 1982): 57-63.

Szymcazk, Jerome. "Glenn Burke." Gay & Lesbian Biography. Michael J. Tyrkus, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. 94-95.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Burke, Glenn  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 3, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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