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Dodgers dedicate Pride Night first pitch to honoring Glenn Burke’s legacy and family

The Burke family’s first pitch is an indication that although it took decades, the Dodgers are finally dedicated to elevating a trailblazing gay athlete’s legacy.

Glenn Burke
Glenn Burke’s 1978 Dodgers baseball card.

Over the past several years, Dodgers Pride Night has grown from a promotion into an event. And with over 15,000 tickets being sold for this year’s Pride Night, to borrow a phrase Angelenos are familiar with, it’s reached “must see” status.

That record-breaking group of fans is going to enjoy numerous Pride Night staples from an LGBTQ-themed kiss cam to a Progress Pride jersey giveaway. But they’ll also witness a very significant moment in the relationship between the Dodgers and their LGBTQ history.

Yes, even more important than the players taking the field in rainbow LA caps.

After more than four decades, the Dodgers will finally begin making amends for the organization’s treatment of Glenn Burke. During Pride Night, the Dodgers have invited Burke’s family for a pregame tribute to the former outfielder’s trailblazing role as a gay ballplayer for their 1976-78 teams. The Burkes will also be throwing out that night’s ceremonial first pitch.

The Dodgers have long been justifiably proud of their role in advancing civil rights in baseball and throughout the country. At every opportunity, they’ve paid tribute to Dodger Blue icons like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe.

Yet until recently, when the subject of Glenn Burke’s time in LA has come up, the Dodgers’ response has been “Um…*minutes of radio silence*…have we told you about Jackie Robinson?”

As their Pride Night is about to demonstrate, that is going to be a thing of the past.

San Diego Padres v Oakland Athletics
Glenn Burke’s brother Sidney throws out a first pitch at an Oakland A’s game in 2015.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Broadcasting Erik Braverman, one of the highest ranking out gay executives in MLB, worked with former Dodger Billy Bean to reach out to several members of Burke’s family and invite all of them to Pride Night.

On the 3 Strikes, You’re Out podcast, Braverman related that, “In having several conversations with them, the family says it’s about healing, it’s about moving forward…They want to put this past them and they want Glenn and his legacy to be that he was a difference maker.”

One of the best ways to accomplish that is for the Dodgers to utilize the platform of the largest Pride Night in pro sports to put Burke’s story front and center. Essentially, this tribute is the team’s most prominent attempt to do a retroactive solid for Burke and his family.

As Braverman admitted, it would’ve been understandable for the family to feel a sense of anger or trepidation based on how the organization treated Burke as an active player.

But in talking to them, he realized that “they are thrilled to see Glenn and his memory and legacy being talked about and being on display at [Dodger] Stadium. They are emotional and they are very, very proud to know that people are still talking about Glenn. And they’re hopeful that his legacy and his memory can make a difference.”

Braverman further summed up the family’s message: “They want people to know that the closet Glenn had to live in…that it served a purpose and that people don’t have to do that anymore.”

While tonight’s game will be packed with celebrations, in the end, this Dodgers Pride Night will stand out most for its historical significance. When the Burke family throws out the first pitch, it will serve as a belated honor for a baseball figure who tried to live a life of Gay Pride in an era where it meant risking his career to do so.