Glenn Burke was the first and, as far as we know, the only gay player to be out of the closet to his teammates and team ownership during his major league career. Burke and many believed that he was run out of the league because of it. It’s also possible that he was pushed out for the simple fact that his performance didn’t justify a place for him on a major league roster. Or it could have been a combination of the two. As Bouton and many others pointed out, you can be unique in a major league clubhouse and no one will care as long as you’re good. But if you’re unique and you stink, however, you probably will get way less slack than equally-stinky players.
But whatever the circumstances of Burke’s departure from the league, his place in history is undeniable. Regretfully so, to the extent that he’s famous for being one of a kind. There have been over 6,000 players who have cycled through the big leagues since Burke left. The odds that none of them save Bill Bean (who came out after his career was over) were gay are more or less impossible. Gay ballplayers besides those two have won and lost games, hit home runs and made dumbass errors, have spouted cliches to sportswriters and have reported to camp “in the best shape of their lives.” It’s a pity that society is such that they have not felt free to step out of the closet and be themselves like every other ballplayer is allowed to be. We’re not going to get over that hump any time soon, I fear.
But we can examine the life of Glenn Burke, as a documentary about him — “Out. The Glenn Burke Story” — airs tonight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area at 8 P.M. Pacific. If you’re not in the Bay Area you can watch it on DirecTV (Sports Pack Channel 696) and the Dish Network (Multi-Sports Package Channel 419).
I don’t know if the documentary will be any good, but the story is an important and a compelling one, however told.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.