Friday, October 29, 2010

Out. The Glenn Burke Story (And his relationship with Tommy Lasorda JR)

UPDATE - Clips from the documentary are no longer available. That's why you see a blank space at the bottom.

Trailer of the upcoming documentary on Glenn Burke.

Comcast SportsNet Bay Area shipped me a DVD of this documentary. I just saw it last night. Of course, there is a lot more than this trailer. It's 72 minutes long and it covers everything that Glenn Burke went through with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's. It also covers one subject that the media doesn't talk about. And that's the relationship that Burke had with Tommy Lasorda Jr. More on that in a bit. First, read this press release.

“Glenn was comfortable with who he was. Baseball was not comfortable with who he was.”
–Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim, Childhood Friend and Sports Agent  

Glenn Burke’s journey through baseball began and ended in Oakland, California. His sports career had many stops along the way, starting as a multi-sport star at Berkeley High School, followed by a brief stint at the University of Nevada, Reno as a prized basketball recruit, and then moving into professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers, being hailed by one coach as “the next Willie Mays.” 

Early in his career, Burke felt he had to hide his true self from his teammates.  Later, when he began to reveal glimpses into his sexuality the baseball establishment began to close him out.   

Out. The Glenn Burke Story, a one-hour documentary produced by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, tells the dramatic tale of Burke’s legacy as the first openly homosexual Major League Baseball player.  From his Major League debut in 1976 and starting Game One of the 1977 World Series for the Dodgers to subsequently being traded to the Oakland Athletics the next season, and then walking away in 1980 from the game that he deeply loved, Comcast SportsNet follows one of baseball’s most dramatic arcs.

Many of Burke’s teammates were aware of his homosexuality during his playing career, as were members of management. And many of those teammates believe that his sexuality – and the reaction it provoked – led to the premature derailment of his baseball career.  

Out. The Glenn Burke Story tells the tumultuous story of the wedge that was driven between Burke and the Los Angeles management, the ensuing similar situation in Oakland that led to Burke’s abrupt retirement, and the hero’s welcome that Burke received in San Francisco’s Castro District after he left professional baseball.

Comcast SportsNet’s narrative follows Burke through his public announcement of his homosexuality in a 1982 Inside Sports magazine article (‘The Double Life of a Gay Dodger’) and on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, to his subsequent downward spiral to drugs, prison, and eventually living on the same San Francisco streets where he was once hailed as an icon.
Burke’s story took on another level of tragedy when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994.  Yet at the end of his life, the game that he claimed abandoned him so many years before reached out to one of its own. The A’s found Burke and provided him with constant support in his final months, as did some of his former teammates.

Glenn Burke passed away on May 30, 1995 at the age of 42 of AIDS-related complications.  
Out. The Glenn Burke Story documents the extent of Burke’s courage, strife and friendship throughout his life, and the compassion and callousness of the sport of baseball.  The program weaves together insights from Burke’s teammates and friends, including Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Rickey Henderson, Claudell Washington, Mike Norris, Shooty Babitt, Tito Fuentes, and former Major Leaguer and gay rights activist Billy Bean.

Out. The Glenn Burke Story, a one-hour documentary, premieres on Wednesday, November 10 at 8:00 p.m. PT on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and will air commercial-free.

More short clips:

Former Burke's teammate, Davey Lopes -

Reggie Smith, another former teammate. The day he found out that Burke was Gay.

Why did the Dodgers trade Burke back in 1978? According to teammates, it was because he was in a relationship with Tommy Lasorda Jr.

Quotes -

Dusty Baker - "The team wanted you married. They wanted you to settle. Everybody got married in the early-mid 20's".

Tommy Lasorda and Al Campanis. 

Vincent Trahan (Childhood friend) "Al Campanis and Walter O'Malley offered him $75,000 to get married. He assumed it was to marry a Woman"

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (Sports Agent) "Glenn was told by the Dodgers to get this bonus to get married. Glenn took exception to that and refused to do it and openly dated Tommy Lasorda's son".

Tommy Lasorda Jr, nicknamed Spunky. His homosexuality was an open secret. One his father adamantly refused to accept.

Billy Beane (Former Dodger) -  "I think Tommy was obsessed with the word "Faggot". Probably because of his experience with his son"

Reggie Smith - Spunky was overt, especially the way he dressed. Tommy Lasorda would take him to road trips to keep an eye on him. When Tommy found out (that his son was Gay) he was probably one of the most disappointed people and hurt by it.

Dusty Baker - "Some of the guys would get off me because I was friends with Spunky. We used to talk about music".

Eric Sherman (Author "Out at home") "I think when Burke and Spunky became friends, hang out together and that type of thing, that's really probably crossing the line".

Dodgers GM Al Campanis and Tommy Lasorda decided to trade Burke two months into 1978 season.

Marvin Webb (Former Dodgers Minor Leaguer) "Lot's of things were going on. With him and Tommy Lasorda's son. He was hitting .250. It made him expendable".

Lyle Spencer (Former Dodgers beat writer) "The guys were distraught in the clubhouse. It was quite. It realized me how important Burke was to his teammates. I remember a few players were crying when they found out he was traded".

Davey Lopes "I remember like it was yesterday. Al Campanis came down and said we just traded Glenn. I said, Glenn? Why? What? If you know the story, you know the reason why he was traded".

Dusty Baker "I think the Dodgers knew, that's why they traded Glenn"

Lyle Spencer "They were devastated that the life of the party was leaving. I wrote a column about that and it was not well received by Dodgers management"

- - - - - - - - - -

There's a lot more to this story. Burke ending his career short. His drug problems and getting aids didn't help. A's manager Billy Martin, just like Tommy Lasorda, did not like having a gay man on his team.

I didn't live during those times and I'm sure it was a totally different era than today. I would hope fans and management wouldn't care today if you are gay. I'm sure there are many gay professional athletes that are scared to come out.

If a player from the Dodgers admits he's gay, would you still support him?

I would. I can care less. I'm not one to judge.

I'll end this post with what Reggie Smith said: "This country and this sport wasn't ready for it. That's the thing that's more tragic. He had this ability and he couldn't fulfill it".

Thanks to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for shipping this DVD.

Dodger Thoughts is reporting that Southern California residents will be able to see this documentary. {linked here}

Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News also had this preview last week. {linked here}

I highly recommend the documentary.

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