15,000 sign baseball fan’s Change.org petition calling on the Hall of Fame to honor the Major League’s first openly gay player, Glenn Burke
COOPERSTOWN, NY – More than 15,000 people have joined a breaking sports campaign on Change.org calling on the Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize Major League Baseball’s first openly gay player, Glenn Burke. Burke played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics during the late 1970s and early 1980s, was openly gay with his teammates, and is attributed with popularizing the high five.
Jeremy Redlien, a volunteer EMT, president of PFLAG Oneonta/Otsego, and baseball fan from Oneonta, N.Y., launched the campaign on Change.org once he learned Burke has never been recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Glenn Burke came out to his teammates at a time when no one else was talking publicly about their sexual orientation, let alone athletes,” said Redlien. “We live in a world where the contributions of gay athletes to the history of sports is often overlooked. It’s time to recognize Burke’s bravery so that young people today can be inspired by this important figure in baseball.”
In addition to being the first Major League Baseball player to come out as gay, Burke is also accredited with popularizing the high five. In a late season game in 1977, Burke’s Dodgers teammate, Dusty Baker, hit a home run. Burke, who was on deck, raised his right hand as Baker crossed the home plate and gave him a high five.
“It’s amazing to think that Glenn Burke not only made history by coming out as gay, but that he also popularized something that millions upon millions of people do, from T-ball players to professional athletes, whenever they want to celebrate a special moment,” added Redlien. “Burke’s story is something that everyone deserves to learn about, as the contributions of gay athletes are all too often overlooked in professional sports.”
Burke’s career in the Major Leagues was short. According to a PBS documentary from 2010, Burke’s sexual orientation caused friction between him and his managers, with a Dodgers official suggesting that Burke should get married to protect the team’s image. Burke retired in 1980, and said a few years later that “prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have, but I wasn’t changing.”
Burke passed away in 1995, after a battle with substance abuse and HIV/AIDS-related complications.
“I think if Burke had been supported by managers and teammates early on, he would not have left baseball so early, and could have been a contender for the Hall of Fame,” said Redlien. “Instead, Burke died tragically after feeling like he didn’t belong in professional sports. It is time for his favorite sport to give him the respect he always deserved.”
“Jeremy Redlien’s petition on Change.org is mobilizing thousands of people who want to see Glenn Burke honored in some way by the Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Joe Mirabella, campaign manager at Change.org. “Baseball fans are speaking out, and joining Jeremy’s campaign in droves.”
Live signature totals from Jeremy Redlien’s campaign: