Ever since universally retiring Jackie Robinson’s number 42 in 1997, Major League Baseball has stepped up its commitment to honoring trailblazing heroes from the game’s past. One of the most prominent ways it has done so has been designating official days to celebrate barrier breakers like Robinson and Roberto Clemente every year.
Thanks to the Oakland Athletics, one of the most important LGBTQ figures in baseball history is finally going to receive a similar honor.
On Friday, the A’s announced that going forward, their annual Pride Night celebrations would be known as Glenn Burke Pride Night.
Furthermore, the A’s revealed that in his memory, ten dollars from every ticket sold for their Pride Night game on June 11th would be donated to the Glenn Burke Wellness Clinic at the Oakland LGBTQ Center.
Everyone in the A’s organization deserves a high five. So does Oakland fan Sterling Hardaway, whose Change.org petition last fall to encourage the A’s to celebrate Glenn Burke Day every season has become reality.
We are proud to honor and celebrate the legacy of Glenn Burke, the first openly gay player in MLB and A’s alum, by renaming our annual Pride Night the Glenn Burke Pride Night! ️ ⁰⁰Join us on June 11th: https://t.co/kVHl9hsv28 pic.twitter.com/ssRhnLHfoG— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 4, 2021
Burke spent two tumultuous years with Oakland at the end of his career when the Dodgers unloaded him on the A’s after he refused team management’s attempt to bribe him into marrying a woman. That sentence should tell you everything you need to know about what Burke faced as a gay man in late-70s baseball.
During his time with the Athletics, Burke was ostracized by teammates, brawled with anti-gay hecklers in the Coliseum parking lot, and had to endure manager Billy Martin introducing him with “Oh by the way, this is Glenn Burke and he’s a faggot.” Any of these incidents by itself would be a burden. Burke had to endure all of them in less than two years.
Considering all this, the decision by A’s management to rename its Pride Night after Burke also feels like a long-overdue organizational mea culpa. Author Andrew Maraniss, who wrote the excellent Burke biography “Singled Out,” told Outsports that he agrees with this assertion:
“It’s hard to say it makes things right since this is happening 26 years after Glenn’s death, but it certainly is a great step in the right direction. It is important that organizations do not remain prisoners of their pasts, but instead are willing to acknowledge mistakes and move on by telling the full truth. I applaud the A’s for celebrating the life and legacy of one of their own.”
Between this announcement and the Giants taking the field in Pride rainbow caps, the Bay Area is absolutely crushing it when it comes to 2021 Pride Nights.
What’s more, Glenn Burke Pride Night will help keep Burke’s legacy alive. As Maraniss recalled, “In [Burke’s] dying days, he said that he hoped his experience would make it easier for gay players in the future.” With this honor, the Oakland A’s have brought MLB one step closer to honoring Burke’s wish.