"Out. The Glenn Burke Story," which makes its national TV premiere on Versus next Tuesday, tells the sad, sordid tale of the former Dodger and Athletic who started the first game of the 1977 World Series against the Yankees but later saw his career and life derail.
Burke did not publicly declare his homosexuality until two years after he walked away from baseball in 1980, but his sexual preference widely was known during his playing days.
The reactions to that from his friends are revealing. Even the most supportive acknowledge in that era it was too much to expect tolerance.
Said former Dodgers teammate Reggie Smith: "I certainly didn’t want to accuse him of that, because one thing’s for sure - at that time period, it was a kiss of death for a ballplayer. He would’ve been excused from the game, so to say.”
Eventually Burke was essentially excused from the game, pushed by the likes of manager Billy Martin, who openly used gay slurs when referring to him.
Later he found compassion from the A's front office, especially from Sandy Alderson, who made sure Burke got food and shelter during his troubled days as a former player living in San Francisco.
Burke died of AIDS in 1995.