Before joining Baseball’s Major League, Burke was named Northern California's High School Basketball Player of the Year in 1970. He was considered capable of being a professional basketball player, but his first offer came from Major League Baseball. When he started his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays. Although he is commonly thought of as 'the player who invented the High-Five' the High-Five was widely used for at least a half-century prior to Burke's adaptation of the gesture during baseball games. In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker for hitting a home run in the last game of the regular season. His celebration has since been imitated by athletes and fans in virtually every sport around the world. Another High-Five came moments later when Baker returned the favor in celebration of Burke's first major league home run.
As a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland
A's Burke had 523 at-bats over his four seasons in the big leagues and had a career batting average of .237. He stole 35 bases.
Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his autobiography Out at Home, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married. Burke refused to participate in the sham. He also angered Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland Athletics.
Faced with mounting difficulties, Burke eventually quit baseball. He stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." He returned for spring training with Oakland in 1980. Billy Martin, the newly hired manager of the Athletics made public statements about not wanting a gay man in his clubhouse. When Burke injured his knee before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. Burke then left professional sports for good at age 27.
In his 225 games in the majors, Burke batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBI and 35 stolen bases.
Burke continued his athletic endeavors after retiring from baseball. He competed in the 1986 Gay Games in basketball, and won medals in the 100 and 220 meter sprints in the first Gay Games in 1982. His jersey number at Berkeley High School was retired in his honor.
Soon after, it was noted that Glenn Burke had acquired AIDS. When news of his battle with AIDS became public knowledge in 1994, he received the support of his former teammates and the Oakland Athletics organization. In interviews given while he was fighting AIDS, he expressed little in the way of grudges, and only one big regret - that he never had the opportunity to pursue a second professional sports career in basketball.
Glenn Burke eventually died from AIDS-related complications in 1995. (More Black SGL/T Historical Profiles at the Celebrating Black Gay, SGL/T History Page of this site)
"My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked." Glenn Burke in People ~ November 1994