Glenn Burke’s journey through baseball began and ended in Oakland, California. His sports career had many stops along the way, starting as a multi-sport star at Berkeley High School, followed by a brief stint at the University of Nevada, Reno as a prized basketball recruit, and then moving into professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers, being hailed by one coach as “the next Willie Mays.”
Early in his career, Burke felt he had to hide his true self from his teammates. Later, when he began to reveal glimpses into his sexuality the baseball establishment began to close him out. Out. The Glenn Burke Story, a one-hour documentary produced by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, tells the dramatic tale of Burke’s legacy as the first openly homosexual Major League Baseball player. From his Major League debut in 1976 and starting Game One of the 1977 World Series for the Dodgers to subsequently being traded to the Oakland Athletics the next season, and then walking away in 1980 from the game that he deeply loved, Comcast SportsNet follows one of baseball’s most dramatic arcs.
Many of Burke’s teammates were aware of his homosexuality during his playing career, as were members of management. And many of those teammates believe that his sexuality – and the reaction it provoked – led to the premature derailment of his baseball career.
Out. The Glenn Burke Story tells the tumultuous story of the wedge that was driven between Burke and the Los Angeles management, the ensuing similar situation in Oakland that led to Burke’s abrupt retirement, and the hero’s welcome that Burke received in San Francisco’s Castro District after he left professional baseball.
Comcast SportsNet’s narrative follows Burke through his public announcement of his homosexuality in a 1982 Inside Sports magazine article (‘The Double Life of a Gay Dodger’) and on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, to his subsequent downward spiral to drugs, prison, and eventually living on the same San Francisco streets where he was once hailed as an icon.
Burke’s story took on another level of tragedy when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. Yet at the end of his life, the game that he claimed abandoned him so many years before reached out to one of its own. The A’s found Burke and provided him with constant support in his final months, as did some of his former teammates.
Glenn Burke passed away on May 30, 1995 at the age of 42 of AIDS-related complications.
Out. The Glenn Burke Story documents the extent of Burke’s courage, strife and friendship throughout his life, and the compassion and callousness of the sport of baseball. The program weaves together insights from Burke’s teammates and friends, including Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Rickey Henderson, Claudell Washington, Mike Norris, Shooty Babitt, Tito Fuentes, agent Abdul-Jalil and former Major Leaguer and gay rights activist Billy Bean.