Home Author An interview on Glenn Burke with author Andrew Maraniss

An interview on Glenn Burke with author Andrew Maraniss

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The Dodgers-Astros The match from 44 years ago today, October 2, 1977, was irrelevant to the standings. Los Angeles held the top spot in National League West, a spot the team held all summer except for three days in the first week of the season in April. The team had a 10-game lead.

The only real suspense was whether Dusty Baker, stuck on 29 home runs last week, would hit his 30th home run, giving the Dodgers four hitters from 30 home runs – joining Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith – and become the first club in baseball history to have such a quartet.

Beating in the bottom of the sixth against JR Richard of Houston, Baker went to plate short of chances. History would be written at that point as Baker sent a fast 1-2 ball into the left center stands at Dodger Stadium for a solo home run, set a baseball record that wouldn’t be matched for 18 years.

Baker would later say he felt “like the happiest man in the world”. Equally excited was 24-year-old Oakland rookie outfielder Glenn Burke, who greeted Baker at home plate by shouting, “Here we go! Procedure! ”Burke held his right hand above his head, urging Baker to match it with his right hand, which Baker did. In this moment of spontaneous exuberance, a cultural phenomenon called the High Five is not.

The mystique surrounding High Five’s origin story is the subject of many articles and even a ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts. The story around Burke, the main protagonist of the High Five origin, was also somewhat of a mystery until early this year when author Andrew Maraniss wrote a biography of Burke, titled ‘Singular: The True Story of Glenn Burke’.

Maraniss takes the reader into Burke’s personal life as the first – and only – openly gay Major League player as well as his 1978 Los Angeles exile. I asked Maraniss to put the events of there into context. is 44 years old, and how they are still relevant today.

(Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity)

Steve Dittmore: What was the nature of the relationship between Burke and Baker?

Andrew Maraniss: “Dusty and Glenn had a great relationship. Dusty told me that when he was a young player with the Atlanta Braves, he enjoyed the way Hank Aaron took young black players under his wing. Dusty became that type of character himself with the Dodgers, and Glenn was one of the youngsters he mentored. Dusty told me he felt like they had a lot in common – both Californians, both music and basketball lovers, both vaulters. Dusty said Glenn was a very popular figure in the clubhouse, even as a fourth rookie outfielder on a veterans squad, due to his sense of humor and the way he supported his teammates. Glenn was the kind of guy who brought everyone together. So it was no surprise that Glenn was thrilled that Dusty hit the record and famous circuit in a unique and fun way.

SD: Lost in October 2 high five history, Burke also scored – his only one in a Dodgers uniform. Burke’s home run came immediately after Baker’s and gave the Dodgers a brief 3-2 lead. How was Burke greeted in the canoe?

AM: “Well, the second high-five in history came just a minute after the first, because when Glenn Burke got back in the Dodger dugout after hitting his home run, Dusty greeted him with a high- five on his side. It was quite a round. Manny Mota also hit a home run – his only home run between 1973 and the end of his career in 1982. And none of the home runs really mattered. JR Richard pitched well otherwise and the Astros won the game. It’s baseball, isn’t it? “

SD: a widely published document Los Angeles Times photo showing Burke in a windbreaker greeting Baker with a high five is often mistaken for the first high five. This photo was taken on October 5, 1977 after Baker’s Grand Slam in Game 2 of the NLCS. Even an ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts leads viewers to believe the photo represents the first top five. In terms of baseball mythology, how important is it to set the record straight about when the first top five happened?

AM: “I understand why the photo is used so often and why the truth is a little unclear about its meaning. It’s a great photo and it’s the only one we’ve ever found of Burke and Baker in great shape. So, when it comes to mythology, you could probably argue that setting the record straight is not that important. But in writing a true Glenn biography, I thought it was interesting and important to point out that this was not actually the first high-five. In the photo, as you said, Glenn is wearing a jacket. In the video you can see it was Davey Lopes’ jacket, not even his own. The Dodgers then had their last names on the back of their jackets. Also, Glenn wears a regular cap, not a batting helmet, and he wears it backwards. So those are really good clues that he wasn’t the hitter on the bridge like he was in the game where he gave Dusty that first high-five. Finally, you can see the Bunting in the stands in the photo, with Dodger Stadium dressed for the playoffs. The fact that Dusty’s home run took place on the last day of the regular season is significant, because otherwise the Dodgers wouldn’t have become the first team to have four players hit 30 or more home runs in the same season. His playoff home run wouldn’t have counted towards that record, of course.

SD: Why did you want to write a biography of Glenn Burke?

AM: “My niche as an author is to write non-fiction, sports-related books with a social justice angle. My first book, Strong Inside, is a biography of Perry Wallace, the Southeastern Conference’s first black basketball player. My second book, Games of Deception, is the story of the first Olympic basketball team, which played in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. I’m writing a book to be released next year called Inaugural Ballers, which tells the story of America’s first female Olympic basketball team at the 1976 Games in Montreal. I felt that writing a biography of Glenn Burke would give me the opportunity to tell his story in the context of the gay rights movement of the 1970s and the aftermath of that movement, as well as the toll of the epidemic of AIDS and the costs of homophobia. . I’m a huge baseball fan too, and it was a lot of fun interviewing people like Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes, Mike Norris, Ruppert Jones, and others for this book.

SD: In May 1978, Los Angeles traded a young Burke in Oakland for veteran outfielder Billy North. Why did the Dodgers trade this?

AM: “Back then, the Dodgers said that a veteran player like Billy North was more valuable to them in their World events aspirations than a less proven player like Burke, but most people think there was a lot more to the story. Burke had started two games in the 1977 NLCS, as well as the first World Series game at Yankee Stadium. So he was a rookie in whom the team had some confidence. During the offseason after the 1977 World Series, Al Campanis visited 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 the management was about his sexuality and he refused to go along with the plan. By then, 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 difficult it was that Glenn’s teammates brought his craft to the A. Sports journalists have noticed players sitting at their lockers crying in learning the news. It shows you what a presence Glenn had on this team, how much his teammates loved and respected him, even though he wasn’t a starter. And these guys knew he was gay. Some claim, even today, that a gay player is a “distraction” in a team. Glenn was anything but a distraction; he was one of the most popular players on the whole team.

SD: Your book cover identifies Burke as “the first openly gay MLB player and inventor of the high five.” His plaque on the Rainbow Honor Walk in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco says the same thing. Which of these labels is the most meaningful?

AM: “That’s a great question. It’s easy to say that his status as an openly gay first Major League player is more important, and I think that’s ultimately the right answer. But thinking about the high-five and the universally known gesture, and the fact that it’s about celebrating another person’s accomplishments, that’s also pretty important. What a legacy to leave to the world. But back to Glenn’s importance as a gay pioneer. When you look at the history of homophobia in American sports and the fact that there still hasn’t been an active gay player in the big leagues since Glenn, you appreciate the strength and courage it took. to Glenn to try to live. her dreams.

Andrew Maraniss’s book, ‘Singular: The True Story of Glenn Burke’, is available wherever books are sold.


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