LA remembers Glenn Burke on Pride Night

June 4th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers celebrated their ninth annual Pride Night on Friday. Among the festivities were a tribute to the late Glenn Burke and custom on-field pride caps, which were worn during a game for the first time in franchise history.

More than 40 members of Burke’s family were on hand for a pregame ceremony to recognize Burke, who was the first openly gay player in the Major Leagues and spent four seasons in the bigs from 1976-79. His brother, Sidney, threw out the first pitch.

“It means so much to all of us these many years later,” Burke's younger sister, Paula, said. “Glenn was our hero and a hero to so many others. They still admire him. He put a big crack in the ceiling for everybody else.”

For Billy Bean, MLB’s senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s a tremendous sign of progress.

“If when I was playing I saw something like this, it would have been amazing,” said Bean, the only living openly gay player (current or former), who was in the Majors from 1987-95, and has worked with the league since 2014. “It’s all gratitude. The greatest compliment I think is that our community has loved baseball just as long as anyone else has.”

Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts believes it helps uphold franchise tradition.

“It just speaks to the Dodgers as far as being barrier-breakers, being forward-thinking and being all-inclusive," Roberts said. "There’s so much discrimination in our world. That community has certainly been a victim of it. So I think they can also appreciate how welcoming and open the Dodgers are.”

More than 15,000 tickets were sold as part of the Pride Night ticket packages for Friday's Mets-Dodgers game, the most in professional sports history. Burke’s family and friends were at Dodger Stadium, where Glenn was an outfielder for three seasons and a beloved member of the clubhouse. Burke was traded from the Dodgers to the A's in May 1978, creating a rift that is being mended nearly 30 years after his death in 1995.

“He was not protected,” Paula said. “But he stood on his own. He wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t shy. I think that more and more players will feel comfortable telling people who they are and be their authentic selves.”

“He was my superhero,” Sidney said. “I think Pride Night should be Glenn Burke’s Pride Night. Not just in L.A.”

Burke’s social impact also includes frequently being credited with inventing the high five in October 1977, with then-teammate and current Astros manager Dusty Baker.

“I tell people to Google my brother’s name and see what you get, and they are fascinated by [that],” said Burke's older sister, Lutha.

Bean hopes that Friday’s event at Dodger Stadium can be replicated all around baseball.

“The way MLB gets better is they learn from watching events like today,” Bean said. “Supporting a message of inclusion and equality. We’re starting to understand why it’s so important for people to feel like they belong. And that’s what’s going to make more people want to come to the ballpark.”