A few interesting items about some rock stars of the Old West : Billy the Kid was born in New York City, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles and the great Bat Masterson (Indian Fighter, Buffalo Hunter, Gambler, Gunman, Fight Referee and Lawman) was the sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph.
“There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets ice in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.” These were the words typed in Bat’s typewriter when he was found slumped over dead from a heart attack in the New York Morning Telegraph newsroom.
What does this have to do with the “High Five?” Very little, except that there is little doubt that Billy, Wyatt, and Bat never used the High Five after dispatching a deserving bad guy and putting him six feet under, because the High Five was invented by the great Glenn Burke in 1977 ( Great? Batting avg .237, Hr 2 , RBI 38 ). Glenn was a Major League Baseball player for the Dodgers and Oakland A’s from 1976 to 1979 . Burke was the first and perhaps only Major League Baseball player known to have acknowledged his homosexuality to teammates and management and the first to do so publicly. Burke’s association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to Glenn’s 1995 autobiography “Out at Home,” Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis
offered to pay for a lavish wedding and honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married. He declined. Glenn also angered manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager’s gay son Tom “Spunky” Lasorda Jr., who died in 1991 at the age of 33.
In 1977 Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodger teammate Dusty Baker after Baker hit his 30th home run in the last game of the regular season. Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from 3rd base. Not knowing what to do about the raise hand, Baker slapped it. They have been credited with inventing the High Five. After retiring from baseball, Burke used the High Five with other gay residence of the Castro district of San Francisco, where it became a symbol of gay pride .
An article published in Inside Sports magazine in 1982 made Burke’s gay life public knowledge. After baseball, Burke turned to drugs and alcohol which destroyed him both financially and physically. He was repeatedly arrested for alcohol and drug offenses and lived on the streets of San Francisco. On May 30th,1995 he died of AIDS complications. He was 42 years old.
So now when you drop your little son Timmy off at soccer practice and he is greeted by Lance, his young coach, there are no longer awkward moments of overly hearty handshakes or prolonged hugs. Just a gratifying “High Five” and you are OK with that and so is Timmy, Lance, and I am sure Glenn is OK with that too. Groove.