MLB’s first openly gay player says prejudice drove him out of baseball.
Glenn Burke was a very popular player with the Dodgers in the ‘70s. He was a starter on the 1977 World Series team that lost to the Yankees and is even credited with inventing the high five.
His teammates and Dodgers management knew his sexual identity even though he wasn’t publically out, and he was constantly taunted by opposing fans. In order to silence rumors of Burke’s sexual identity the Dodgers even reportedly offered him $75,000 to get married — an offer that he turned down.
He was then traded to the Oakland A’s in a move that stunned his Dodger teammates, and his time on the team was riddled with tension. His sexual identity drew the ire of manager Billy Martin who was openly homophobic. As Burke told the New York Times in 1994, “Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn’t changing.”
After retiring from baseball, Burke lived in San Francisco where he suffered from a drug addiction and life on the streets. He died in 1995 at age 42, due to AIDS complications, and remains one of only two openly gay athletes to play in the MLB.