“If you see pictures of him he is like…way back, I mean way, way back with his arm,” says Dusty Baker through a chuckle. The Dodgers great is referring to Glenn Burke’s high-five, the first time he ever saw it after hitting a home run to become part of the first 30-homer quartet in baseball history.
Burke, a rookie at the time, says he was so overwhelmed with happiness for Baker that he had to run out of the on-deck circle and that the feeling just brought his hand up in what is now a ubiquitous gesture of triumph: the high-five.
Shortly after this moment Burke was traded unceremoniously to the Oakland A’s for what he believed were fears regarding his open homosexuality on the team. After many altercations with the A’s, Burke decided to leave baseball on his own terms and move to the Castro in San Francisco, believing that a continued life in baseball would be too difficult and eventually end in disaster.
Burke enjoyed years in the gay-friendly neighborhood but was unfortunately diagnosed with AIDS, to which he succumbed in 1994.
Years after retiring from baseball, Burke was asked his opinion on the now-legendary gesture: “Think about the feeling you get when you give somebody a high-five–I had that feeling before everybody else!”
There is no doubt that Burke changed the world with a small expression of joy. The high-five is for all of us, everywhere. A true symbol of equality in a world with so much inequality.
You can watch the ESPN short about the gesture below.