It’s been 19 years since Glenn Burke died. But he’s finally receiving recognition for becoming the first former Major League Baseball player to come out as gay.
Burke will be honored as a gay pioneer for the sport before the All-Star Game in Minneapolis on Tuesday, The New York Times reports.
“He was a pioneer, and should be recognized,” Pat Courtney, an MLB spokesman told the publication.
Burke, who got his start with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976 before being traded to the Oakland A’s, became the first professional baseball player to come out, discussing his sexuality in an interview with Inside Sports in 1982. At the time, Burke was not playing professionally; he had quit the majors at 27, primarily because of animosity in the locker room.
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“Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have,” Burke told the Times in 1994, a year before his death due to AIDS-related causes.
Now, 20 years later, the MLB is bringing Glenn back into the spotlight ahead of a major announcement the league is reportedly set to make about homophobia in baseball. The league is also set to publicize a new position for Billy Bean, the former MLB player who followed in Burke’s footsteps and came out in 1999.
The decision to posthumously honor Glenn as a gay pioneer is the latest step the MLB has taken to help develop an atmosphere of tolerance in the sport. Last year, the league unveiled a new policy to protect athletes against harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.