Genn Burke was only in the majors for three years, but that was long enough for him to come out to his team mates, making him the first known gay baseball player.
Mr. Burke’s Major League career started in 1976 with the Las Angeles Dodgers. There he apparently angered manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending his gay son Tommy Lasorda Junior.
Burke was traded in 1978 to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North. Some considered Mr. North a lesser player, insinuating that homophobia had something to do with the trade. Upon arriving in Oakland, Athletics manager introduced him to the team as “the faggot”.
Mr. Burke’s carear ended in 1979, when the Athletics released him from his contract. In his autobiography, out at home, Mr. Burke said he left baseball because “the prejudice won out.” He batted just .237 in his three plus seasons, indicating that perhaps being gay might not have been the only reason that his career may have been so short.
Perhaps Mr. Burke’s greatest contribution to society is the high five. In 1978 Mr. Burke ran onto the field to congratulate Dusty Baker after he hit a home run. Mr. Burke had his hand extended over his head, Mr. Baker didn’t know what to do with the raised hand, so he slapped it. The two of them are credited with inventing the high five.