“He could jump out of a stadium,” said Rick Monday, Burke’s former Dodgers’ teammate and now the club’s radio analyst. “With his vertical leap, he could have been one of Santa’s reindeer.”
The 2022 M.L.B. Season
“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic.”
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- King of Throws: Tom House has spent his life helping superstars get even better. With a new app he wants to fix young pitchers before they develop bad habits.
But Burke was also a man so far ahead of his time that the times didn’t — wouldn’t — recognize him. He was traded by the Dodgers, shunned by the Oakland Athletics and, eventually, ostracized from baseball. He wound up lost, alone and alienated. He was briefly homeless and turned to cocaine and crack. He did a short stint in prison for drug possession. He contracted AIDS and died from its complications at 42 in May 1995.
That’s where the story could have ended. But today, the credits continue to roll.
“The most unique human being, the most dynamic person, that I’ve ever met,” said Larry Corrigan, a minor-league teammate of Burke’s (1973-1976) before working more than three decades as a scout and executive, mostly for Minnesota. “He was built like a god. He was funny, witty and semi-loud if he knew you. But he could be quiet, too.”
Burke debuted with the Dodgers in 1976 and mostly backed up their great outfield of that era — Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith and Monday. When the 1977 World Series opened between the Dodgers and Yankees, he started Game 1 in center field while Monday nursed a sore back. Only seven months later, the Dodgers shipped him to Oakland in a trade for Bill North. It was a baffling, mid-May deal that didn’t add up unless you knew about Burke’s personal life. The Dodgers’ players did, but most say they didn’t care. As the shock of the trade plowed through the clubhouse, several say they shed tears.
“I tell you, he was the life of the party,” Baker, now managing Houston, said from Seattle over the weekend. “He’d get out and dance; he could dance his butt off. He’d crack on anybody, and we loved having Glenn around. Glenn was a big part of our team, man. And he was a hell of a ballplayer who was learning how to hit.”