The Dodgers will hold their ninth annual LGBTQ+ night at Dodger Stadium on Friday, June 3, during a series against the Mets. This year’s event is even more notable because Glenn Burke will be honored publicly as part of a pregame ceremony.
Burke was the first openly gay player in MLB, and started his career with the Dodgers in 1976 before getting traded to Oakland in May 1978. In his book, ‘Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke,’ Andrew Maraniss wrote about the lead up and reaction to the trade, which he recounted last year in an interview with our Steve Dittmore:
During the offseason after the 1977 World Series, Al Campanis paid a visit to Glenn in the Bay Area. Glenn thought it was to talk about his role on the team in ‘78. Instead, Campanis offered Glenn a bribe to get married. Glenn asked, “To a woman?” When Campanis said yes, Glenn knew management was on to his sexuality, and he refused to go along with the plan. At that point, he knew his days with the Dodgers were numbered. Tommy Lasorda’s son, Spunky, was gay and Lasorda wasn’t happy that he and Glenn were friends. One of the things I found most interesting while researching the book is how hard Glenn’s teammates took his trade to the A’s. Sportswriters noticed players sitting at their lockers crying when they heard the news. That shows you what a presence Glenn had on that team, how much his teammates liked and respected him, even though he wasn’t a starter. And these guys knew he was gay. Some people contend, even today, that a gay player would be a “distraction” on a team. Glenn was anything but a distraction; he was one of the most popular players on the entire team.”
Burke died in 1995 after a battle with AIDS, and the Dodgers have been slow to recognize him in the years since. Not just for Burke coming out publicly after his playing days — the first MLB player to do so — but for co-inventing the high five along with Dusty Baker in 1977, though the latter has been occasionally mentioned in a video at Dodger Stadium.
A more formal recognition of Burke will come on June 3, when his siblings Lutha A. Burke Davis, Joyce Henderson, Carol Maas, Paula Hunt and Sidney Burke will be on hand, and his family throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.
“The Dodgers are once again proud to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community during this annual event, which has become one of the most anticipated nights of the season,” Dodgers executive VP Lon Rosen said in a statement. “We are also very happy to recognize Glenn Burke and honor his memory with his family in a very special pre-game ceremony.”
In addition to honoring Burke, LGBTQ+ will include an LA Pride kickoff party in the right field plaza bar from 5:30 p.m. until game time. There will be a pregame kickball game with members of the Varsity Gay League on the field after the Dodgers and Mets take batting practice. Wils will sing the national anthem.
Among the partners with the Dodgers on LGBTQ+ night is Outsports, the SB Nation site that focuses on LGBTQ+ news and issues. Outsports covered the Dodger Stadium wedding of Dodgers senior VP of marketing and communications Erik Braverman in January.
Others expected at Dodger Stadium on June 3 are former Dodgers outfielder Billy Bean, who is now MLB’s senior VP of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and longtime major league umpire Dale Scott.
As part of the ticket package for LGBTQ+ Night, the Dodgers are including a jersey with a rainbow-colored logo and number on the back.