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Meet the baseball player who invented the high five

David Gura Jul 31, 2014
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It was October 2, 1977. The Los Angeles Dodgers were up against the Houston Astros on the last game of the regular season. Dodgers’ outfielder Dusty Baker was at bat. He swung and knocked it out of the park, his 30th homerun of the season – making the Dodgers the first team in history to have four position players with 30-plus homeruns each.

But, this story isn’t about those hitters.

“As Baker was rounding the bases, a young rookie came out and just spontaneously threw his hand up in the air, and slapped Baker five,” says Mike Jacobs, director of Grantland’s short documentary, “30 for 30: The High Five“.

That young rookie was Glenn Burke, outfielder number 12 for the Dodgers. Jacobs says Burke was a young and enthusiastic baseball player, who was just excited to be playing in a major league. He enjoyed making his teammates laugh.

“The Dodgers rallied around the high five and they even trademarked it,” says Jacobs. “They made these fliers that they handed out for spring training in the 1980 season.”

The Dodgers and their fans eventually moved on.

“Burke soon found himself out of favor in the Dodgers organization, amidst rumors of his sexual orientation,” says Jacobs. “He was traded to the Oakland A’s.”

However, Burke didn’t fit in quite as well during his time with the Oakland Athletics, and within a year was forced out of the game.

Glenn Burke passed away in 1995 from AIDS-related pneumonia. He was 42-years-old.

“Unfortunately, he died too early,” says Jacobs. “But really, the high five gives us an opportunity to share his story and to celebrate his legacy in that way.”

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