Over at The Nation, sportswriter Dave Zirin’s got a review up of the new documentary “Out: The Glenn Burke Story.” Burke was a black baseball player in the ‘70’s who started in the 1977 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, from most accounts, he was the first openly gay player in Major League Baseball, a fact that caused plenty of friction and eventually got him dealt to his hometown Oakland Athletics. In his review, Zirin asks the big overarching question, “how good could Glenn Burke been without the relentless pressures of homophobia?”
What sets it apart is that it does more than explore an athletic hidden history. It speaks to today’s sports world about the stubborn endurance of the closet in the men’s locker room over the last thirty years.When thinking about LGBT athletes and what they’ve faced, people are very familiar with female jocks like tennis legend Martina Navratilova and basketball star Sheryl Swoopes. Maybe they also know male athletes who in recent years have come out after retirement like NFL player Esera Tuaolo and NBA center John Amaechi. But in Burke we have a story that hasn’t been told, and demands an audience.
Sadly, Burke only played 101 games for the Athletic’s before voluntarily retiring. From there, his life descended into what the Bleacher Report called “the abyss of drug use, homelessness, and AIDS that eventually took his life.”
The film makes its official premiere on Wednesday at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.