If you've heard just a little about Glenn Burke, it's probably one or both of the following two things: 1) he is sometimes given credit for being the inventor of the high five; 2) he is often referred to as the "first" gay baseball player,
a mantle that is problematic on a few levels,not least because he wasn't ever out during his career by his own choice, despite the fact that his sexuality was at best an open secret (in the end, at least). (ETA: As Uber rightly points out below, this is actually a point of some conversation and controversy. From Carissa: "In his autobiography, which I partially based my article on him on, in addition to a documentary that came out a few years ago, he states repeatedly that he never attempted to hide that he was gay. That many other people (including Dodgers management) tried to force him in the closet but he refused.")
Deadspin's archive-Kinja, The Stacks, republishes great pieces of sports journalism, including a piece from Inside Sports published in 1982 — "The Double Life of a Gay Dodger" by Michael J. Smith.. They originally put it up last May, but I missed it until now, and I'm glad I caught it; it's a fantastic, insightful, and heartbreaking piece, absolutely worth fifteen minutes to read. As much as it is a time capsule of a moment, the story remains startlingly relevant in the wake of Jason Collins and Michael Sam — the reactions from players, the worrying over the "locker room" and sharing personal space, the unspoken-but-understood truths not only about Burke's identity, but about a team's knowledge of and real response to that secret.
Lopes remembers picking up the newspaper the next day and reading a quote from a scout. "I believe it was an American League scout at the Angel game in Anaheim that night," Lopes said. "The guy said, 'Wait until the A's find out what they really got in Glenn Burke.'"
The locker room was still silent the next day, and Lopes' reaction was quoted in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. "I knew something was missing when I came in today. It will probably remain like this until somebody comes along with a personality like Glenn's. And I don't think that's going to happen. I've heard a lot of adverse things about him from people, but they didn't know him. He was the life of the team, on the bases, in the clubhouse, everywhere. All of us will miss him."
One Dodger angrily went to the front office and demanded an explanation. Dusty Baker didn't need to go that far. "I was talking with our trainer, Bill Buhler. I said, 'Bill, why'd they trade Glenn? He was one of our top prospects. ' He said, 'They don't want any gays on the team.' I said, 'The organization knows?' He said, 'Everybody knows."
ETA: Also check out Carrissa's article on Burke from earlier this month!