To this day, the late former Dodgers and Athletics player Glenn Burke is the most pivotal figure in LGBTQ baseball history. Now he’s finally going to get a moment in the sun.
The out gay former outfielder, who was largely out to his teammates in the 1970s before homophobia derailed his career and his life, will be featured in a Netflix series, “Outfielder,” led by out gay filmmaker Ryan Murphy, according to Deadline. Famed actress Jamie Lee Curtis, whose child is transgender, is also expected to play a producing role in the forthcoming series and owns the rights to the project.
“Ryan is producing a project I’ve been trying to get made as a producer for over 10 years,” Curtis told Deadline, which also reported that Robert O’Hara is writing the series.
While still in the early stages, the series will seek to amplify the story of a man who has received little credit for his historic contributions to the sport of baseball — and sport in general. Burke’s status as an out gay man in a hostile environment led him to face anti-LGBTQ slurs from one of his managers, Billy Martin, and he had a sour relationship with legendary Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda, who passed away earlier this year, after growing close to his gay son.
Burke would also visit gay bars during his playing career — a bold move in a previous era given that even in the modern era, Major League Baseball does not have an out player.
But Burke also made a difference in a way that many athletes would never realize. When celebrating a home run by teammate Dusty Baker — now the manager of the World Series-bound Houston Astros — he gave Baker what is now known as a high-five, which established a new way of tradition when it came to celebrating success on the field.
The relentless homophobia, however, drove Burke from baseball — and he would never fully recover after suffering from homelessness, poor health, and other woes. Shortly before dying of complications from AIDS in 1995, he published an autobiography, “Out at Home,” in which he recalled that former Dodgers general manager Al Campanis offered to pay for Burke’s honeymoon if he would simply marry a woman.
In the end, Burke wrote, “prejudice just won out.”
In 225 career games, first with the Dodgers and then with the Athletics, Burke posted a .237 batting average with 35 stolen bases and 38 RBI. His best season was in 1977 when he hit .254 with eight doubles, a home run, 13 stolen bases, and 13 RBI.