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Glenn Burke played in the 1977 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also invented the high five that season. He wasn’t out to the public at that point, but he was also the first openly gay player in Major League Baseball.
He was a man who lived his life out loud. When he was angry, everyone around him knew it. When he was happy, either for himself or on someone else’s behalf, no one outshone him. But he was a gay player in a ball club that prided itself on being squeaky clean “All Americans.” He had to walk a line between being true to himself and remaining in good standing with his managers.
Glenn’s story is heartbreaking. Apparently everyone the author interviewed loved Glenn. He was unforgettable. He lit up any room he entered. But because of a fundamental part of who he was as a person, most of society shunned and reviled him. He sank lower than most of us can even imagine. He’s almost been forgotten.
I loved the story behind the invention of the high five. In typical Glenn form, he didn’t invent it as a celebration of one of his own achievements but to celebrate a teammate. I’ve loved sharing the story with my family members since finishing the book.
But what’s really eye opening is just how hard life was for gay people back in the day. I know things are still way more difficult for the LBGTQIA+ community than they should be, but it was so much worse in Glenn’s lifetime–which overlapped with mine for about a decade. I wish everyone could read this book and walk a virtual mile in Glenn’s shoes. Who cares who loves who? Isn’t the important thing just that they’re loved? Why do we have to be in someone else’s business, judging and condemning?
I highly recommend this. Everyone should meet the charismatic Glenn Burke in these pages and gain some compassion for our fellow human beings.
If you liked Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke, you might also like my reviews of
- They Better Call Me Sugar by Sugar Rodgers
- Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss
Buy Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke from Malaprop’s Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC or