MLB to Recognize Glenn Burke as Baseball’s Gay Pioneer

Late outfielder will receive tribute during All-Star Game.

Posted: 07/15/2014 11:55 AM EDT
MLB to Recognize Glenn Burke as Baseball’s Gay Pioneer

The National Basketball Association has Jason Collins.

The National Football League has Michael Sam.

And Major League Baseball had Glenn Burke.

At the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, the MLB will recognize Burke posthumously as baseball’s gay pioneer, The New York Times reports.

The league invited Burke’s family to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game to make its first official recognition of Burke’s early contribution by openly coming out in 1982, in the way Collins and Sam have subsequently done recently.

“He was a pioneer, and should be recognized,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told the Times.

Lutha Burke, one of Burke’s five surviving siblings, will be on hand to accept the MLB’s tribute to her fallen brother.

“It was overdue, and Glenn has a story that needs to be told,” Lutha told the Times of her brother, whom she cared for before he died from AIDS in 1995.

Glenn, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976-78 and Oakland Athletics from 1978-79, realized he was gay when playing in the minor leagues. He allegedly revealed that to his teammates, but went public three years after his baseball career.

“It’s harder to be gay in sports than anywhere else, except maybe president,” Burke said in 1982, when he came out in an Inside Sports magazine story, according to the Times. “Baseball is probably the hardest sport of all.”

Burke played 225 games over four MLB seasons, mostly as a defensive substitute and pinch-hitter. While with the Dodgers, the outfielder did start Games 1 and 4 of the 1977 National League Championship Series and the World Series opener against the New York Yankees.

Burke’s coming out paved the way in some sorts for Collins to follow suit in May 2013 and the NFL’s Sam almost a year later in February 2014.

According to the Times, the MLB will also tribute former player Billy Bean, who came out publicly in 1999, four years after he retired. Bean will work with the league on its inclusion efforts. 

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(Photo: John Storey/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

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