Glenn Burke and the High-Five – Wilde City Press – Gay History Month


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There have been several athletes that have “come out” in the last few years. Most have done so after their playing days were over, a time that felt most comfortable to them. But there seems to be a turning point as this past year has seen many athletes stepping forward while still active in their sport. You can find an ever growing list of LGBT athletes on wikipedia HERE.

I love baseball so when I saw the following entry in Owen Keehnan’s The LGBT Book of Days, I had to know more.

November 16, 1952 – Major League Baseball player Glenn Burke, who was one of the first professional athletes to come out of the closet while still actively playing and who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976-1979 – is born in Oakland, CA. He is credited with inventing the High-Five.

Rick Reilly did a wonderful article on Glenn Burke shortly after Jason Collins came out earlier this year. You can read it HERE.

“Out”, a Glenn Burke documentary aired in 2010. You can see the television spot in the video below, and the link to Peter Hartlaub’s newspaper spot on the same documentary can be found HERE.

About the High-Five, you ask?

There are a few stories out there, though most have been uncovered to be hoaxes. The story most agreed upon as the “official” birth of the High-Five is the one involving Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker during a Dodgers/Astros game on October 2, 1977. From Jon Mooallen’s ESPN article, which you can read in full HERE.

It was the last day of the regular season, and Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker had just gone deep off the Astros’ J.R. Richard. It was Baker’s 30th home run, making the Dodgers the first team in history to have four sluggers — Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith — with at least 30 homers each. It was a wild, triumphant moment and a good omen as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Burke, waiting on deck, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back,” says Baker, now 62 and managing the Reds. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”

What does it all mean? Something. Nothing. Who knows? But the High-Five is something we still see. It’s something fun and silly. And the likely invention of a man way before his time.

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