Do you know the name Glen Burke? He was a player for the Oakland Athletics who is credited with the creation of the high-five. He was also gay. Doesn’t sound familiar? Burke is just one of the many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people who have contributed much to the world of sports. And who will finally get some recognition in the Gay Sports Hall of Fame.
Dave Pallone, who was part of Chicago history when he umpired the first night game at Wrigley Field, is returning to Chicago to take part in another chapter of American sports history: His inclusion in the inaugural class of what organizers say is the first-of-its-kind National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
On Friday night, Pallone will be honored in the first class of inductees that includes tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, and Jason Collins, who in April became the first active male professional athlete in a major team sport to publicly reveal he was gay.
Executive Director Bill Gubrud said the decision to establish what he says is the country’s first hall of fame honoring gay athletes and their supporters is not tied to Collins’ announcement earlier this year. He said factors such as changing attitudes about homosexuals, particularly among young people, made him and others think this was the ideal time to create an institution that honors the contributions that gays have made in sports as well as the hardships many endured because of their sexual orientation.
Among those being inducted is the late Glenn Burke. An outfielder with the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1970s, Burke is widely believed to have delivered the first high-five. Though he did not publicly come out until two years after he left baseball, Burke maintained until his 1995 death from AIDs that he was run out of the game by “prejudiced and homophobic” managers and front offices that knew he was gay.
“This will help preserve history,” said Gubrud. “You are not going to know where to go if you don’t know where you’ve been and many in the gay community don’t know Glenn Burke.”