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Here’s how the first openly gay pro baseball player invented the high five

Here’s how the first openly gay pro baseball player invented the high five

Glenn Burke doing the first ever high five with Dusty Baker

Glenn Burke was the first openly gay professional baseball player in the sport’s history, but few people know he was also the inventor of the high five.

Burke was a Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979.

He reportedly came out as gay to his teammates and team owners during his professional career. Burke then later came out more widely, as the first pro baseball player to to publicly-acknowledge his homosexuality.

LA Dodger Stadium
LA Dodger Stadium. | Photo: Chris Yarzab / Flickr

But it’s during a game on 2 October 1977 where the first ever high five took place.

Team mate Dusty Baker had just scored his 3oth home run, so Burke ran on the pitch to show his enthusiasm.

Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from third base. Not knowing what to do about the upraised hand, Baker slapped it.

‘All I did was respond to Glenn,’ Dusty Baker said in an ESPN documentary. ‘His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back.’

He then added: ‘So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.’

The demise of Glenn Burke

Everyone on the LA Dodgers team loved Glenn Burke, with numerous team mates referring to him as ‘charismatic’ and ‘the life of the party’.

But in 1978, the LA Dodgers randomly transferred Burke to Oakland Athletics, stirring rumors it was due to his sexuality.

Many members of the team were upset by the transfer.

The rumors surrounding his sexuality continued to swirl, causing tension between his new team mates. Some even refused to shower with him.

After a knee injury in 1979, he decided to retire from professional baseball — ending his short professional career.

Burke famously stated: ‘They can’t ever say now that a gay man can’t play in the majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it.’

After his retirement, he moved to San Fransisco and his life took a downward spiral, turning to drugs.

He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.

Burke has since gone on to become an inductee into the  National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, as well as an official honor from Major League Baseball in 2014.

Watch the video here:

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