NEW YORK – July 20, 2011 – “Out. The Glenn Burke Story,” which documents Burke’s legacy as the first openly gay Major League Baseball player, will have its national premiere on VERSUS on Tuesday, August 9, at 10 p.m. ET. Nominated for a Northern California Area Emmy Award and a nominee for Outstanding Documentary at the 22nd Annual GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards, “Out. The Glenn Burke Story” originally premiered on and was produced by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area last November. VERSUS will provide encore presentations of the documentary on Saturday, August 13, at 11 p.m. ET and Wednesday, August 17, at 11 p.m. ET
Glenn Burke, the first openly gay Major League Baseball player, ended his journey through baseball where it began, in Oakland, California. His sports career had many stops along the way, starting as a multi-sport star at Berkeley High School, followed by a stint at the University of Nevada, Reno as a prized basketball recruit, and then into professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was hailed by one coach as “the next Willie Mays.” Early in his career, Burke felt he had to hide his true self from his teammates. Later, when he began to reveal glimpses into his sexuality, the baseball establishment began to shut him out.
“Out. The Glenn Burke Story” tells the dramatic tale of Burke’s Major League career as an outfielder for the Dodgers and as a starter in Game One of the 1977 World Series, to being traded to the Oakland Athletics the following season, and then walking away in 1980 from the game that he deeply loved. Many of Burke’s teammates were aware of his homosexuality during his playing career, as were members of management. Many of those teammates believe that Burke's sexuality led to the premature derailment of his baseball career.
“Out. The Glenn Burke Story” explores the wedge that was driven between Burke and the Los Angeles Dodgers management, the ensuing similar situation in Oakland that led to Burke’s abrupt retirement, and the hero’s welcome that Burke received in San Francisco’s Castro District after he left professional baseball. The documentary follows him through his public announcement of his homosexuality in a 1982 Inside Sports magazine article and on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, to his downward spiral after his split from baseball, a split that drove Burke to drugs and prison, and eventually to living on the same San Francisco streets where he was once recognized as an icon.
Burke’s story took on another level of tragedy when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. At the end of Burke’s life, the game that he claimed had abandoned him so many years before reached out to one of its own. The Oakland A’s found Burke and provided him with constant support in his final months, as did some of his former teammates. “Out. The Glenn Burke Story” features numerous interviews with Burke’s teammates and friends, including Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Rickey Henderson, Claudell Washington, Mike Norris, Shooty Babitt, Tito Fuentes, and former Major Leaguer and gay rights activist Billy Bean.
“Out. The Glenn Burke Story” is produced by Comcast SportNet Bay Area’s Ted Griggs, David Koppett, Sean Maddison and Doug Harris. The documentary is narrated by Dave Morey, who was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in the class of 2010 after 26 years as a morning host at KFOG radio in San Francisco and nearly 40 years in broadcasting.
Excerpts from “Out. The Glenn Burke Story”:
Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (Childhood friend and sports agent):
On Burke’s homosexuality and the homophobia in Major League Baseball: “It was uncompromising on both ends. Glenn was comfortable with who he was. Baseball was not comfortable with who he was.”
Davey Lopes (Former Los Angeles Dodgers infielder, Dodgers coach):
On Burke being traded to the A’s: “You don’t break up, disrupt a team going as well as it was going to make changes. I didn’t feel it was going to make us a better ball club. Billy North was not going to make us, at that time, any better of a ballclub. Probably not the real reason why things happened.”
Dusty Baker (Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, Cincinnati Reds manager):
On the rumors of Burke’s sexual preference and his trade to the A’s: “I think the Dodgers knew; I think that’s why they traded Glenn.”
Reggie Smith (Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder):
On the suspicions about Burke’s sexuality: “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.”
Vincent Trahan (Berkeley High School classmate):
On Dodger management and their suspicions: “Al Campanis and Walter O’Malley had called him into The Office and offered him $75,000 to get married. And Glenn, being his comic self, said, ‘I guess you mean to a woman?’”
On the Dodgers’ controversial trade of Burke to the A’s: “He was hurt because they traded him not for his baseball ability but for his life choice.”
Rick Monday (Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, Dodgers broadcaster):
On Burke battling personal and professional demons: “We didn’t understand the challenges he was going through on a daily basis at the time. You put it into perspective when you say, here is a guy that is fighting not only the opposing pitcher that was trying to get him out, he was fighting the unknown.”
Lyle Spencer (MLB.com, former Los Angeles Dodgers beat writer):
On the reaction of Burke’s teammates the day he was traded: “I was shocked that he was traded... I walked into the clubhouse…and guys were visibly distraught over the trade, and that told me that my sense of how important he was to them internally was accurate. I even remember a few players crying when they found out about it at their lockers, which is stunning.”
Billy Bean (Former Major League outfielder, gay rights activist):
On Burke in baseball: “Baseball wasn’t ready for Glenn Burke. He was a pioneer and he caught them off guard.”
On dealing with discrimination: “The closet hurts people - forever. Everyone’s career ends, but to do it because you don’t feel you belong there when you’ve proven that you do is damaging. And it affects everything, and I’m sure that’s why Glenn swam in the waters of drugs and alcohol - to take away his frustration.”
Lutha Davis (Burke's Sister):
On AIDS: “A lot of people were scared because I think, at the time, you didn’t know whether you can just breathe on somebody and get AIDS or just Touch them.”
Pamela Pitts (Oakland A’s Director of Baseball Administration):
On Burke’s reaction to hearing the A’s would help him: “Glenn started to cry and said, ‘I’ve been told you’re going to help me. I can’t believe someone wants to help me.’”
On Burke’s death: “I do believe he was in a much better place. His demons were gone.”
Watch “Out. The Glenn Burke Story” trailer:
VERSUS, part of the NBC Sports Group, prides itself on super-serving passionate sports fans across all platforms. Now in more than 76 million homes, the network is the cable television home of the National Hockey League (NHL), IZOD IndyCar Series, Tour de France and Professional Bull Riders (PBR). VERSUS also airs NASCAR, NBA, UFC, college football, college basketball and Triple Crown horse racing coverage. The network is also home to the best outdoor programming on television. VERSUS is distributed via cable systems and satellite operators throughout the United States.