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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Slate: Baseball Has an Amazing Gay History. It’s Time to Recognize It.

Numbers can’t possibly begin to explain how a tremendously talented athlete would eventually be sidelined by vicious institutional homophobia. After coming out to his teammates and managers in 1978, Burke was reportedly offered $75,000 by Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis to enter into a sham marriage. When turning down the offer—more than $312,000 in today’s money—Burke wittily replied, “I guess you mean to a woman.” Unfortunately, Glenn Burke’s fearlessness would lead to his exile from Los Angeles: That same year, he was traded to Oakland.

According to former Athletics teammate Claudell Washington, manager Billy Martin was cruelly homophobic from Day 1, introducing Burke in the locker room by saying, “Oh, by the way, this is Glenn Burke, and he’s a faggot.” Much as Jackie Robinson endured unfathomable racism from fans and fellow players alike, Burke too faced the injustice of bigotry in sports. Yet as an out gay, black man in professional sports—in the 1970s—Burke was light years ahead of his time. “Being black and gay made me tougher. You had to be tough to make it. Yeah, I’m proud of what I did,” Burke recalled later in life. In a Philadelphia Inquirer interview just before his death from AIDS-related illness in 1995, Burke was defiant, declaring, “They can’t ever say now that a gay man can’t play in the majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it.”

MLB’s most significant tribute to Glenn Burke is a puff piece from 2013, which details the creation of the high five.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 12:29 PM | 103 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: al campanis, athletics, billy martin, dodgers, gay rights, glenn burke, high five, jackie robinson

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   1. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 03:57 PM (#4722728)
According to former Athletics teammate Claudell Washington, manager Billy Martin was cruelly homophobic from Day 1, introducing Burke in the locker room by saying, “Oh, by the way, this is Glenn Burke, and he’s a faggot.”

why doesn't that surprise me?
   2. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:07 PM (#4722739)
Billy Bean should never have written that book.
   3. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:17 PM (#4722756)
why doesn't that surprise me?

It's pretty darn surprising once you realize Washington and Burke were never teammates, Burke never played for Martin, and Martin didn't manage Washington until 1988 (years after Burke was out of baseball).
Other than those obscure details the writer couldn't be bothered to verify, though...

EDIT: yes, it's possible something like this happened in 1980 spring training. The answer to "What the #### would Claudell Washington know about what happened in the 1980 A's spring training clubhouse?" was not available at press time.
   4. boteman Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4722764)
At least the author should have exhumed Burke to ask him for a first-hand account.
   5. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4722767)
It kinda blows my mind that the origin of the high-five can be traced back to Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker. I mean, I guess someone had to be the first one to do it, but that someone remembered and pointed out that this the first time such an innocuous hand gesture ever ever happened is strange to me.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4722769)
It's pretty darn surprising once you realize Washington and Burke were never teammates, Burke never played for Martin, and Martin didn't manage Washington until 1988 (years after Burke was out of baseball).
Other than those obscure details the writer couldn't be bothered to verify, though...

EDIT: yes, it's possible something like this happened in 1980 spring training. The answer to "What the #### would Claudell Washington know about what happened in the 1980 A's spring training clubhouse?" was not available at press time.


Wow, what a hatchet job. Too bad dead men can't sue for libel.
   7. winnipegwhip Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4722773)
They should retire 69 throughout baseball.
   8. dr. scott Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4722774)
According to former Athletics teammate Claudell Washington, manager Billy Martin was cruelly homophobic from Day 1, introducing Burke in the locker room by saying, “Oh, by the way, this is Glenn Burke, and he’s a faggot.”


this is not the first place ive read this, so I'm sure the guy just got the quote from another article and he just continued the lack of fact checking/investigation into the exactness of the story. Personally I would expect a little more from a Slate article on this subject.
   9. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4722775)
I don't really doubt Martin said stuff like this or a lot like it; wouldn't surprise me at all.
But the only source for THIS story seems to be Washington, and he wasn't there.

Also, I think if Burke was straight and Rickey! was gay, Martin would have called Rickey! a faggot and also would also have played him every day.
Like seemingly everything else in Martin's life, "bigotry" would have come in well behind his big three of drinking / women / winning baseball games.
   10. AROM Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4722788)
why doesn't that surprise me?


You should have seen what Martin said about him AFTER he found out Burke was gay.
   11. bookbook Posted: June 10, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4722790)
+EDIT: yes, it's possible something like this happened in 1980 spring training.+

Yup. It really strains credibility that the introduction of a player to other players on his own team might happen during spring training.
   12. AROM Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:04 PM (#4722804)
Looking at his stats, one wonders how Burke made it to the big leagues at all. Couldn't hit, no power, didn't walk, not a good outfielder, at least as far as Total Zone can tell.

Were his minor league numbers good? Not really, he hit over .300 a few times but playing in Albuquerque, where everybody hit well. He was fast though, stole 63 bases one year.

He's certainly not unique in that regard. Over the years, many players with weak bats and good speed stay on the prospect lists, move up, get a little bit of playing time, and are let go once the big league manager finds out for himself "I guess he really can't hit".

I didn't know he was "out" to his teammates. I thought it something he only revealed after his career was over.
   13. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4722810)

I didn't know he was "out" to his teammates. I thought it something he only revealed after his career was over.


ditto, I thought the first guy who was "out" to his teammates was Billy Bean... but per Wikipedia:

Bean is the second Major League Baseball player who has ever revealed his homosexuality. Billy Bean came out after his retirement. Glenn Burke was the first to come out to his teammates and employers during his playing days, though Burke didn't come out to the public at large until his career was over


I'd almost swear that Bean came out well before then... but can really find no evidence of that
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4722811)

this is not the first place ive read this, so I'm sure the guy just got the quote from another article and he just continued the lack of fact checking/investigation into the exactness of the story. Personally I would expect a little more from a Slate article on this subject.


Washington tells the Martin story in the documentary "Out: The Glenn Burke Story".

Looking at his stats, one wonders how Burke made it to the big leagues at all. Couldn't hit, no power, didn't walk, not a good outfielder, at least as far as Total Zone can tell.

Were his minor league numbers good? Not really, he hit over .300 a few times but playing in Albuquerque, where everybody hit well. He was fast though, stole 63 bases one year.


He played in the 70s, when hitting .300 and stealing 60 bases was heavily valued, and no one paid much attention to walks and Total Zone was not a thing.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:25 PM (#4722820)
Washington tells the Martin story in the documentary "Out: The Glenn Burke Story".

That still doesn't tell us how he claims to know? UL was with KC all of 1980.
   16. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4722824)
Baseball Has an Amazing Gay History. It’s Time to Recognize It.

Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame. What more recognition does he need?
   17. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4722825)
Yup. It really strains credibility that the introduction of a player to other players on his own team might happen during spring training.

Of course it might happen. But at the only ST where Martin managed Burke, Washington was with another team, so he wouldn't've been there, for that.
   18. Howie Menckel Posted: June 10, 2014 at 05:58 PM (#4722851)

the original Expos accepted a modestly-skilled OF for several years, just sayin'

   19. Perry Posted: June 10, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4722857)
That still doesn't tell us how he claims to know? UL was with KC all of 1980.


UL Washington and Claudell Washington are not the same guy, but the question stands, since Claudell wasn't with the A's in 1980 either.
   20. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 10, 2014 at 06:13 PM (#4722858)
Baseball Has an Amazing Gay History. It’s Time to Recognize It.

Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame. What more recognition does he need?


And what of Gene Michael's mastery of the hidden ball trick?

   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4722860)
That still doesn't tell us how he claims to know?


Homophobe.

I kid. I would guess Claudell befriended Burke when they were teammates, and Burke relayed the story after 1980. Or maybe its unfair to Billy Martin and it was actually Jack McKeon or Jim Marshall. Or maybe it never happened. Who knows.
   22. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: June 10, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4722863)
Former Burke teammate Claudell Washington tells this anecdote in OUT: “[A’s Manager Billy Martin] was introducing all the [new] players and then he got to Glenn and said, ‘Oh, by the way, this is Glenn Burke and he’s a faggot.’”


Just to pile on, but Burke wasn't a "new" player, he was in Oakland 2 years before Billy Martin, the A's manager when Burke got there was Jack McKeon...
So what do we have?

1: It happened in ST 1980, and Burke late told Washington about it (or hell maybe Martin told Washington because Martin thought it was a funny anecdote...)
2: It happened in 1978/some other time, but it was a different manager, not Billy Martin.
3: Didn't happen, either Burke made it up and told Washington, or Washington made it up, or the documentary producers made it up

   23. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 07:16 PM (#4722887)
UL Washington and Claudell Washington are not the same guy,


You've seen them together at the same time, I take it.
   24. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 10, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4722889)
1: It happened in ST 1980, and Burke late told Washington about it (or hell maybe Martin told Washington because Martin thought it was a funny anecdote...)
2: It happened in 1978/some other time, but it was a different manager, not Billy Martin.
3: Didn't happen, either Burke made it up and told Washington, or Washington made it up, or the documentary producers made it up


4. Burke, Washington & Martin never existed.

(Yeah, like it's a big secret I've read far too much PKD.)
   25. TerpNats Posted: June 10, 2014 at 07:18 PM (#4722890)
After coming out to his teammates and managers in 1978, Burke was reportedly offered $75,000 by Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis to enter into a sham marriage. When turning down the offer—more than $312,000 in today’s money—Burke wittily replied, “I guess you mean to a woman.”
Glenn Burke -- the William Haines of baseball. Although Haines left his acting career for successful work as an interior decorator (among other things, he designed MGM pal Joan Crawford's 1930s residence, Carole Lombard's famed mid-1930s house on Hollywood Boulevard and the California governor's mansion Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved into in 1967).
   26. Walt Davis Posted: June 10, 2014 at 07:32 PM (#4722900)
Looking at his stats, one wonders how Burke made it to the big leagues at all. Couldn't hit, no power, didn't walk, not a good outfielder, at least as far as Total Zone can tell.

Yeah, but imagine the pictures he had of Billy Bean.

Oh wait ....

Maybe the Martin incident happened while he was managing the Dodgers. :-)

The human memory sucks. I could easily see Burke telling Washington and Washington's brain swapping McKeon for Martin at some point -- both names start with M, both relatively famous managers although McKeon not until later. My brain does that stuff to me all the time.

Things still don't quite line up though -- Winkles was fired after the A's 39th game but Burke joined them for their 36th game. I assume McKeon would have been the 3rd base coach or something so obviously it's possible he intro'd Burke to the team.

But I see that Washington and Burke attended the same high school. Burke's two years older but I assume played on the same HS team. Certainly plausible they'd have been good friends, maybe close enough that they were staying in touch in 78 and Burke told him in real time.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: June 10, 2014 at 08:09 PM (#4722929)
Things still don't quite line up though -- Winkles was fired after the A's 39th game but Burke joined them for their 36th game. I assume McKeon would have been the 3rd base coach or something so obviously it's possible he intro'd Burke to the team.


I think some people are making the mistake of assuming that "introducing to the team" means that he's introducing Burke as a new guy. There is no reason for that assumption. Burke is on the team, new guy joins, players are in the dugout, and the manager introduces the new player to everyone "Here is new guy, this is Burke, he's a ######". That is pretty much the way I imagined it happened, which is why I think it being Billy Martin in spring training is probably very likely....just can't get how Claudell Washington would have been involved without Burke (or someone else) relaying it to him.
   28. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 10, 2014 at 08:58 PM (#4722961)
Perhaps Primate djordan could ask Claudell for some clarification. That could clear up a lot of these questions.

   29. bobm Posted: June 10, 2014 at 09:41 PM (#4722987)
Http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/9278493/jason-collins-debt-glenn-burke

Rick Reilly: Jason Collins' debt to Glenn Burke - ESPN
May 15, 2013

None of this helped his career. Nor did palling around with Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda's colorfully gay son, Spunky, according to Burke's 1995 autobiography, "Out at Home."

But friends of Burke's say they were never a couple, despite what you've read. "Glenn never had an intimate relationship with Tommy's son," says Trahan. "He wasn't attracted to the real flamboyant types."

Didn't matter. Next thing Burke knew, early in the 1978 season, he was traded to pitiful Oakland, despite Lopes and others walking into the office of general manager Al Campanis to complain.

A year and a half later, during spring training, new A's manager Billy Martin greeted Burke by sitting his team down in center field, pointing to Burke and saying, "Boys, this is Glenn Burke. He's a f-----."

That's when everything stopped being so funny.
   30. esseff Posted: June 10, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4722991)
Martin somewhat famously volunteered to be Artie Wilson's road roommate when Wilson was taking abuse after integrating the Oakland Oaks. But I suppose it's possible that Martin was more sensitive toward one minority than the other.
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: June 10, 2014 at 10:00 PM (#4722995)
But I suppose it's possible that Martin was more sensitive toward one minority than the other.


I figure it would be rather common. To some peoples perception, one is a minority by birth, and another is a minority by choice. I think a lot of people feel that they aren't in the same family of "minorities".
   32. JRVJ Posted: June 10, 2014 at 10:21 PM (#4723002)
I RTFA and it was pretty darn bad.

IF you have nothing good to write, don't write an article (and this comes from a heterosexual guy which supports gay rights 1000%).
   33. Walt Davis Posted: June 10, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4723014)
I can well imagine LaSorda dumping Burke due to LaSorda's well-known issues with his son's sexual preference but they did trade Burke for Bill North who, even in decline, was a much better player than Burke.

WAR gives North 1.8 WAR in just 110 games for the Dodgers, putting up the ridiculous line of 234/371/266. Remember that line next time somebody says the reason that some light-hitting player doesn't walk is because pitchers know they can just throw him strikes all day long. Nobody never nibbled on North.

I find only 5 other fairly similar seasons in the expansion era, min 300 PA:

Menke 1973 191/368/270
Harrelson 1974 227/366/266
Blankenship 1993 190/363/254
Theobald 1972 220/342/256
Flannery 1987 228/332/254

Harrelson leads the way with 2.3 WAR in 412 PA. 4 of them had positive WAA.
   34. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: June 10, 2014 at 11:56 PM (#4723037)
UL Washington and Claudell Washington are not the same guy

His name is Cla Udel L Washington, he goes by his middle two initials.
   35. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:02 AM (#4723041)
Yeah, with Snapper's assist, I'm going to start thinking that Claud L and Ewe L were identical twins.
   36. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:41 AM (#4723113)
I feel like there's this retroactive attempt into making Burke's story a bigger deal than it actually was at the time. Not that it isn't a big deal personally for Burke, but he was a pretty terrible player and didn't have a longer career in MLB because he was a terrible player (it's kind of remarkable he had such a long career, actually). If he had been a little better then I think it takes on more of The Man Keeping Him Down story that we may want it to be. Glenn Burke wasn't like a Willard Brown or Artie Wilson or any number of good black ballplayers who didn't get a fair shake even after MLB integrated. That said, I have no doubt he took a lot of abuse and, like I said, he has a compelling personal story. I think in the hands of a good writer a fictionalized biography of him could be pretty great. He's an East Bay guy, too, which automatically makes him interesting.
   37. Lassus Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:57 AM (#4723117)
He's an East Bay guy, too, which automatically makes him interesting.

I laughed.
   38. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:59 AM (#4723118)
The easiest thing in the world to do is to invent a phony past and an exaggerated history. The present has a conflict of interest in creating the past, inasmuch as the past reflects on the present.
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4723134)
Yeah, with Snapper's assist, I'm going to start thinking that Claud L and Ewe L were identical twins.

Happy to provide the comic relief :-)
   40. AROM Posted: June 11, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4723135)
But I suppose it's possible that Martin was more sensitive toward one minority than the other.


Sensitive is not a word normally associated with Billy Martin.

   41. Charles S. will not yield to this monkey court Posted: June 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4723186)
I can well imagine LaSorda dumping Burke due to LaSorda's well-known issues with his son's sexual preference but they did trade Burke for Bill North who, even in decline, was a much better player than Burke.

This trade led to one of my favorite headlines I read as a kid. It must have been in either the Hartford Courant or The Sporting News: "North Heads South"
   42. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: June 11, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4723207)
I can well imagine LaSorda dumping Burke due to LaSorda's well-known issues with his son's sexual preference but they did trade Burke for Bill North who, even in decline, was a much better player than Burke.


But that doesn't fit the narrative people want to create, which was that Burke was hounded out of Baseball even though he was a good player, "look here he was dumped for an obviously inferior player, proof positive!"

Billy Martin wanted to win more than anything else in the world, I think he dumped on Burke not because he was gay, but because Burke wasn't good enough to help Billy win- OTOH the form that Billy's abuse took was related to Burke's gayness
   43. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4723225)
Bill North was a far more valuable asset than Glenn Burke. Not even close.
   44. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4723226)
OTOH the form that Billy's abuse took was related to Burke's gayness

If, he in fact said it.
   45. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4723240)
Was calling someone "faggot" back in 1980 considered a slur, or was it more likely Martin grew up in an era where that was just what you called a gay person? I was 2 so I don't really know. But I wonder if he even meant it to be an insult.
   46. AROM Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4723260)
It was definitely used as an insult in 1980. Just one of many used by kids. Mostly by straights trying to get under the skin of other straights. Well, some of those using that or being called that actually would turn out to be gay, but you generally don't know that if you're 10 years old, like I was in 1980.

I don't think there was ever a time where you would call a person that word merely as a descriptive, not an insult. Though there was a time when you would call a cigarette by that term.

Much later, I had a British boss who smoked, and would say things like "I'm going out for a bit to suck on a f**". I don't think he got it.
   47. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4723273)
I don't think he got it.


Or no one in the office did, mistakenly believing the clueless brit was just stepping outside for a smoke.

   48. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4723279)
Yeah, "faggot" was definitely a slur in 1980. Probably the worst thing we had, looking back on those days, was a game called Smear the Queer. It was a fun game but I didn't get the implication of the name at the time and, honestly, if I had I wouldn't have cared. I feel like both the country and myself have come a long way since then.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:39 AM (#4723285)
Yeah, "faggot" was definitely a slur in 1980. Probably the worst thing we had, looking back on those days, was a game called Smear the Queer. It was a fun game but I didn't get the implication of the name at the time and, honestly, if I had I wouldn't have cared. I feel like both the country and myself have come a long way since then.

We had that game too, but there really was no connection to homosexuality beyond the name. The "queer" was merely the ball carrier. "Kill the carrier" was the alternative name.

Effeminate kids were much more likely to be called "fairies" than "queer". "Gay" was sort of a catch-all synonym for "lame".
   50. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4723288)
Probably the worst thing we had, looking back on those days, was a game called Smear the Queer.

we did too, but you had to pronounce the first word "schmeer"
   51. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4723290)
Was calling someone "faggot" back in 1980 considered a slur, or was it more likely Martin grew up in an era where that was just what you called a gay person?


It was meant as an insult, it was also frequently directed at straights as an insult (cuz it was just assumed that calling a straight person gay was insulting back then)
Of course using it back then didn't reflexively get the user branded as being "homophobic"

but yes it was what a lot of people referred to gays as...

Much later, I had a British boss who smoked, and would say things like "I'm going out for a bit to suck on a f**". I don't think he got it.


We used to (still do) assign code names to enemy military equipment, with respect to Soviet Aircraft if it is a fighter plane the codename starts with an "F," if Bomber "B." So the main Soviet Strategic Bomber became "Bear," the MIG-29 is "Fulcrum" (Which the plane's designers actually quite liked and adopted it" The SU-27 is "Flanker"
Well back in the Korean War the main Soviet fighter was the Mig-15, the name we gave that one was "Fagot" (which originally meant a tied up bundle of sticks, later became slang for cigarette and gained a "g")
   52. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4723303)
but there really was no connection to homosexuality beyond the name. The "queer" was merely the ball carrier.

You don't think in an era of rampant gay bashing that Smear the Queer had a connection? I'm pretty sure it did. It was a game where a bunch of kids had singular aggression against one other kid. I mean, it was a game, but you don't have to be a PHD student in cultural studies to see it in a larger context.
   53. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4723312)
You don't think in an era of rampant gay bashing that Smear the Queer had a connection? I'm pretty sure it did. It was a game where a bunch of kids had singular aggression against one other kid. I mean, it was a game, but you don't have to be a PHD student in cultural studies to see it in a larger context.

But there was no connotation that the kid being "smeared" was actually "queer".

I assure you, as 8 to 12 y.o.'s we were completely unfamiliar with gay bashing, or really, gays in general, except as an abstract concept.

The girl from Thailand, and the kid who's last name changed because his mom divorced and remarried were the edge of the unusual in our lilly white suburb.
   54. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4723320)
But there was no connotation that the kid being "smeared" was actually "queer".

I assure you, as 8 to 12 y.o.'s we were completely unfamiliar with gay bashing, or really, gays in general, except as an abstract concept.


It does not matter if the kid is literally gay, it's a pantomime of the larger culture. You really think a 10 year old doesn't know what gay means? I sure did. I guarantee you 12 year olds did since they're the ones who explained it to me.
   55. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4723328)
It does not matter if the kid is literally gay, it's a pantomime of the larger culture. You really think a 10 year old doesn't know what gay means? I sure did. I guarantee you 12 year olds did since they're the ones who explained it to me.

As I said, we knew as an abstract concept. We didn't know any actual gays, or anyone who harmed actual gays.

Gays were sort of an equivalent bogeyman to "commies".
   56. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4723337)
As I said, we knew as an abstract concept. We didn't know any actual gays, or anyone who harmed actual gays.

We'll just have to disagree. I think you're trapped by literalness here and are wrong, though.
   57. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4723347)
We'll just have to disagree. I think you're trapped by literalness here and are wrong, though.

Perhaps my memory is faulty, or perhaps I just grew up in a very sheltered environment. The latter is almost certainly true. As I said, the idea of someone's parents divorcing was exotic to us.
   58. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4723356)
As I said, the idea of someone's parents divorcing was exotic to us.

Just you, Eddie Haskell, Lumpy and Whitey, tossing the old pigskin around, playing a bit of Smear the Queer...


:)
   59. djordan Posted: June 11, 2014 at 01:42 PM (#4723414)
#43, I'm not 100% sure what you're talking about, but I'm guessing it's the MLB Glenn Burke article where the author cites Burke was traded for player of lesser value? Yeah, that sentence stuck out at me as well when I read it.
   60. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4723426)
The other thing about Burke in Oakland is that '79 was this year the Henderson, Murphy and Armas outfield was being put together. That was a tough time for a struggling outfielder to find himself competing for a slot in the Oakland outfield. In fact, his last at bat for the A's came June 4th and Rickey!'s first game was June 24th so it's not a stretch to say Burke was dropped for the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. It looks like he spent the next year with Oakland's AAA affiliate and was pretty terrible again and that was that. I can't tell what happened to Burke on the 4th, though. Did he get hurt or released? He doesn't have any minor league stats for 1979 but I can't tell if he was injured or if he was released and no one picked him up until the offseason when the A's brought him back into the organization.
   61. djordan Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4723442)
Also #28, I know Burke was born in Oakland in 1952. Claudell was born in L.A. in 1954, but grew up in Berkeley and went to high school there. I've only seen the trailer on Youtube, but they have a Claudell talking head interview in the trailer. Perhaps they knew other from high school. That would be my guess. Burke also finished his pro career at Ogden in 1980, the A's AAA club. That would put him in Spring Training clubhouse with Billy in 1980.
   62. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4723455)

The girl from Thailand, and the kid who's last name changed because his mom divorced and remarried were the edge of the unusual in our lilly white suburb.


Kahn and his family were Laotian, not Thai.
   63. Howling John Shade Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:27 PM (#4723456)
Yeah, "faggot" was definitely a slur in 1980. Probably the worst thing we had, looking back on those days, was a game called Smear the Queer. It was a fun game but I didn't get the implication of the name at the time and, honestly, if I had I wouldn't have cared. I feel like both the country and myself have come a long way since then.
One of the few times I can remember my dad getting angry at me was when I came home and told him the name of the game we'd been playing at soccer practice. I didn't have any idea it was a slur at the time, but I'm sure some of the kids did. This was the mid-80s, and I grew up sort of near the Russian River which became a de facto hospice community for people dieing of AIDs. So it wasn't all that abstract, although I don't know how much I knew of that at the time.
   64. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:28 PM (#4723459)

Also #28, I know Burke was born in Oakland in 1952. Claudell was born in L.A. in 1954, but grew up in Berkeley and went to high school there. I've only seen the trailer on Youtube, but they have a Claudell talking head interview in the trailer. Perhaps they knew other from high school. That would be my guess. Burke also finished his pro career at Ogden in 1980, the A's AAA club. That would put him in Spring Training clubhouse with Billy in 1980.


Didn't Claudell write a piece for you a few years back on his all-star appearance? I figured he was something of an acquaintance of yours.

   65. vortex of dissipation Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:39 PM (#4723471)
I can't tell what happened to Burke on the 4th, though. Did he get hurt or released? He doesn't have any minor league stats for 1979 but I can't tell if he was injured or if he was released and no one picked him up until the offseason when the A's brought him back into the organization.


From a 1982 article in Inside Sports:

Midway through the 1979 season, Finley learned that Burke was refusing to take a cortisone shot for a pinched neck nerve. "I feel an injury should heal on its own," Burke said. "Once you take the first shot, you take another and another. Charlie came to talk to me on the field before a game. I said no. They sat me for two weeks. Finally, I told them I needed a voluntary retirement and walked out. The whole operation was minor league, with Finley calling the dugout making lineup changes. I probably wouldn't have left if there hadn't been the other problem, the gay thing, but put it all together and it was too much.

It was not that simple to walk away. Baseball had often tortured him, but it still owned a part of him. He returned next spring, attracted by the idea of playing for new manager Billy Martin.

   66. Gaelan Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4723483)
You'll all have to trust me on this but being called "gay" while it literally meant homosexual did not mean that to kids that were ten years old. It meant weak and womanly, like a sissy, or perhaps a general lameness. I was called it a lot, as you can imagine, because of my name. The appropriate response to this was to fight. Which I did. Snapper is right on what it meant.

Later, it became my nickname, a term of affection, used by my closest friends and even my parents. My brother still sometimes calls me "Gay" as my name.

   67. Sunday silence Posted: June 11, 2014 at 02:58 PM (#4723494)
I just want to add the cultural significance of these terms to someone growing up in western PA in the 70s:

I recall playing Smear the QUeer as early as '72, but being 9 I had no concept of homosexuality. THe kids I played with had much older bros. so they probably learned the game from them, although the term?? I dunno.

THe slur of choice was faggot, although until we reached puberty it is questionable how we understood it. Again some kids have older siblings so they might have got it. I recall someone being question about this term when we were bout 11 or 12:

"you dont even know what faggot means."
"It means a boy who thinks he's a girl."

NO one questioned this description of what is more like a transgendered person. As kids most of us recognized "flaming" types although we did not truly understand sexuality at this pt. There were enuf examples of this on tv eg. Paul Lynde or Tiny Tim, but some were gay and others were just effiminate. So as a kid you could relate this term to what you saw on tv, and come to conclusion it had somethign to do with those types without being totally understanding of human sexuality.

Other terms we used were gay and queer and possibly homo.

My dad was a depression era guy and his word was "queer." Archie Bunker's term was "fairy" I think he used that on the tv show.

I was also aware of transgendered people because of the Renee Richards story. Whether I thought fagots were transgendered is not clear to me.

My Italian granma was one of the first to explain this to me but she described " mascu-feemes" and she was probably talking about transgendered people.

Again people with older siblings may have a different perspective. Much of what kids say/do is based upon peer pressure and copy cat behavior.

I think it is idiotic to believe that all 8-9 yr old kids in my day all knew what homosexuality was. We were clearly using the term as young as 8 (i distinctly recall that) although I knew it had to do with sexuality, it was not clear to me.
   68. Baldrick Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4723499)
We kids definitely used to play Smear the Queer in the playground during recess. This was mid to late 80s. If you had asked me about it, I definitely would not have thought to say it had anything to do with 'being gay.' But I certainly processed the connotation. If it wasn't something I was specifically thinking about, it certainly influenced my general thoughts about 'proper' forms of masculinity.

I was also a nerdy, awkward kid. So I was on the receiving end of at least a little bit of playground taunting. And some of that involved being called 'a queer.'
   69. AROM Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4723500)
Kahn and his family were Laotian, not Thai.


What Ocean? So is he Chinese or Japanese?
   70. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:06 PM (#4723501)
I think it is idiotic to believe that all 8-9 yr old kids in my day all knew what homosexuality was.

It doesn't ####### matter if you knew what the word meant or you knew exactly what a homosexual was, it does ####### matter that the game existed and had the particular name it had which very clearly was a microcosm of the larger world around it. It's why so many of us were little homophobes without waking up one day and deciding, "hey, I'll be a homophobe!"
   71. Sunday silence Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:11 PM (#4723502)
You really think a 10 year old doesn't know what gay means? I sure did.


Can you explain how you are so sure of this? Did you have an older brother explain this to you? Did you take a class in school?

It is interesting to me, because given you are 10 you likely had not undergone puberty so it is hard to understand something based on human sexuality when you yourself had not yet experienced that.
   72. Sunday silence Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:19 PM (#4723512)
It doesn't ####### matter if you knew what the word meant or you knew exactly what a homosexual was, it does ####### matter that the game existed and had the particular name it had which very clearly was a microcosm of the larger world around it. It's why so many of us were little homophobes without waking up one day and deciding, "hey, I'll be a homophobe!"


I think you are missing my point by a fairly large margin.

You asserted that kids as young as 10 know exactly the meaning of gay, or queer, or whatever term it was. I seriously challenge that, and the experience of several others above, show that they too understood the term vaguely as having something to do with perceptions of the male roles would seem to support this.

As kids we understood what was traditional male role or behavior. That was easy to see and imitate. To say we understood what a homosexual was, is very different.

Changing the issue into one about our collective responsibility for social issue is clever, I admit.
   73. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:20 PM (#4723515)
Can you explain how you are so sure of this? Did you have an older brother explain this to you? Did you take a class in school?

Yeah, they had a special seminar in third grade...Or maybe I just absorbed it from the world around me. Older kids, hearing adults talk, from movies and television. If you want to know the specific moment when someone explained to me the birds and bees about homosexuality, that never happened. It's just in the air. But all of that is beside my larger point anyway. You and snapper want to believe Smear the Queer was just a harmless name for a context free children's game. I think that is wrong. I will admit to being a massive idiot, though, so you've got me there.
   74. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4723518)
Changing the issue into one about our collective responsibility for social issue is clever, I admit.

Gee, thanks for giving me credit for what was my original point to begin with.
   75. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4723526)
I will admit to being a massive idiot,


What a great opportunity for a Spartacus moment.

   76. Baldrick Posted: June 11, 2014 at 03:59 PM (#4723542)
You asserted that kids as young as 10 know exactly the meaning of gay, or queer, or whatever term it was.

No, he really didn't.

Changing the issue into one about our collective responsibility for social issue is clever, I admit

That's the whole conversation. Did you read any of it?
   77. dave h Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:02 PM (#4723545)
I don't want to speak for anyone, but a lot of what I'm hearing sounds familiar so I'll give my explanation a try. I played Smear the Queer, and in retrospect it was unquestionably a shitty name for the game. However, queer for me wasn't equated to homosexual, it was equated to loser, odd man out, something along those lines. Now obviously the fact that the word that was really slang for homosexual was defined in my mind as loser is itself pretty shitty, but I didn't comprehend that association - I made it unthinkingly. An interesting twist on this, however, is that you kind of wanted to be the "queer" in this game. You could give up the ball at any moment, but you kind of proved your toughness by holding on to it as people tried to gang up on you. I propose this is because, like many things little kids do, it didn't make any sense whatsoever.

Later on, I vividly remember using the word "faggot" to refer to something feminine. Eventually someone informed me that one of the people I was using it in front of was gay. I (justifiably) felt bad about that because, as a 8th or 9th grade kid, I was undeveloped enough to think it was okay to call something a "faggot" but developed enough to realize that when it directly impacted someone else that was unacceptable.

Of course all of these things are affected by what society perceived as okay when I was growing up. Smear the Queer sounds really awful now, and hopefully kids growing up now would feel uncomfortable calling that even if an adult didn't directly tell them it wasn't okay.

To summarize: Shooty's point that society was awful to gay people when we were growing up is both correct and obvious. But I think everyone else is saying that it worked (at least in the lily white middle class northeast suburbs) not by making us hate actual gay people, but by associating being gay with other negative attributes, which we just tossed around without thinking about anyone's feelings.
   78. Nasty Nate Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4723548)
Is this the same game as "Tackle the Man with the Ball?"
   79. djordan Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4723555)
@ #78, pretty much. Another off-color name for the game. See also, "Kill the Man with the Ball."
   80. djordan Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:18 PM (#4723558)
#64, Yeah, we talk every now and then. Absolute gentleman. We never discussed Burke, though.
   81. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:29 PM (#4723571)
Is this the same game as "Tackle the Man with the Ball?"

aka "Kill-the-Carrier"
   82. jobu Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4723575)
You asserted that kids as young as 10 know exactly the meaning of gay, or queer, or whatever term it was. I seriously challenge that, and the experience of several others above, show that they too understood the term vaguely as having something to do with perceptions of the male roles would seem to support this.

If one was born in ~1967 to 1971, which probably covers a lot of posters, I think that many kids at the age of 10 would have known the basics of what "gay" meant (a man who likes other men in the way that most men like women, not necessarily how the physical mechanics of that might work). The network TV show "Soap" launched, and it was a prominent cultural touchstone in that it featured a gay character, Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal. This was a significant aspect of the show, and it was much commented on in the media. Big controversy. I would be very, very surprised if many kids of that age of that generation didn't know what "gay" meant.

That all said, dave h's post captures the reality of "kill the carrier"'s alternative name. In retrospect, a bad name for the game, but most of the fun of the game was being the guy carrying the ball.
   83. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:34 PM (#4723577)
We used to play "Metro the Hetro", and it would involve making train noises while piling on one pitiful kid who no one liked because he was too good at sports.

But we were all a bunch of faggots.
   84. Howie Menckel Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:44 PM (#4723584)
We called the game, "Kill the Guy With the Ball"

I remember once, after injuring my knee on a particularly rough group takedown, a combatant a year older than I confidently (and inaccurately) diagnosed me with "water on the knee" - a heady moment, as this was something that professional athletes were sometimes said to have in the early 1970s...

   85. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:46 PM (#4723586)
Is this the same game as "Tackle the Man with the Ball?"


But not the same game as "Tickle the Man with the Ball." That's different.
   86. Sunday silence Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4723587)
No, he really didn't.


It seemed to me he did, because he said "you really dont think kids know what it means."

Other people seem assume that's what he was asserting because they responded to it in that way.

I never said the name of the game was innocuous or not questionable. Dont put words in my mouth.

It is entirely possible children today know more about this issue. Soap the tv show arrived after puberty so it didnt impact my knowledge although indeed it might have for others. My daughter was 9 during the election cycle a couple years ago and she was aware of the gay rights vote here in MD. However, it still doesnt mean she understands totally what it means to be gay.

I know for a fact, as an 11 year old in '74, I was not totally sure what the term meant, based on the anecdote I recalled. The other reason is that not having undergone puberty, one still might be in the dark about what that term really means.
   87. AuntBea Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:48 PM (#4723590)
It does not matter if the kid is literally gay, it's a pantomime of the larger culture. You really think a 10 year old doesn't know what gay means? I sure did. I guarantee you 12 year olds did since they're the ones who explained it to me.


I played the game for a year or two as well and I had no idea. And I grew up in San Francisco. I was probably only around 8 or so. 10 at the very oldest. I would bet the majority of the kids playing (approximately the same age) had no idea of the reference.

Edit: I should have quoted a different section. I was referring to "smear the queer". I very specifically remember when someone told me, after playing the game for a year, what the connotation was, that I was very surprised and didn't believe it at first. Probably mostly because I had never heard the term "queer" before, and also because being the one to run and get tackled was usually reserved for the most athletic and thus more popular kids, and seemed to be a position of honor of sorts. All such kids would take turns often, and enjoyed being able to last a long time without getting smeared (so to speak).
   88. Nasty Nate Posted: June 11, 2014 at 04:55 PM (#4723592)
It seemed to me he did, because he said "you really dont think kids know what it means."


You inserted the word "exactly." As to whether or not that changes the meaning significantly, I offer no opinion.
   89. Rob_Wood Posted: June 11, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4723604)
well, the name definitely gives tacit approval to mistreating people who are different than others
   90. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4723629)
I assure you, as 8 to 12 y.o.'s we were completely unfamiliar with gay bashing, or really, gays in general, except as an abstract concept.

Nor was it an "era of rampant gay bashing." That's a present-day conceit.
   91. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Posted: June 11, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4723630)

What Ocean? So is he Chinese or Japanese?
Well played.

I watched that show cos of B+B and didn't really get it initially; only realized the genius of it when I'd matured a bit and it hit syndication.
   92. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 06:39 PM (#4723631)
No one thought the person being "smeared" was literally "queer." And no one thought of him/her as "lesser" or "the other" anymore than they thought that of the person who happened to be "it" in tag.
   93. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4723633)
I might have first heard the terms when the All in the Family writers had Archie explain to Mike that, "A guy who wears glasses isn't a queer. A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes; a guy who's a fag is a queer."
   94. Sunday silence Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4723637)
You inserted the word "exactly."



yes I did, because I was trying to pin it down more. Rather than just say that kids knew it was a slur, or kids knew it had something to do with sexuality, I wanted to see if people think kids really know exactly what it means.

So yes I did that deliberately.

I certainly thought of it as a slur, and by the time of 10 or 11 I knew it had something to do with sexuality; although in my mind I did not understand the difference between transgendered and gay, nor much else.

I dont know how one can be so sure of what one knows, without having some specific reference or incident that you can recall. Without that, I know at some pt. my understanding changed but at what pt. it changed it is very hard to pin it down.
   95. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:21 PM (#4723645)
I assure you, as 8 to 12 y.o.'s we were completely unfamiliar with gay bashing, or really, gays in general, except as an abstract concept.

Right. Later we learned that the reason "queer" was an insult was that it referred to homosexuals.
   96. Baldrick Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:26 PM (#4723651)
yes I did, because I was trying to pin it down more. Rather than just say that kids knew it was a slur, or kids knew it had something to do with sexuality, I wanted to see if people think kids really know exactly what it means.

Good lord.

Shooty, post 70 (i.e. literally the post you were quoting):
It doesn't ####### matter if you knew what the word meant or you knew exactly what a homosexual was, it does ####### matter that the game existed and had the particular name it had which very clearly was a microcosm of the larger world around it. It's why so many of us were little homophobes without waking up one day and deciding, "hey, I'll be a homophobe!"


You, post 72 (responding to that quote):
You asserted that kids as young as 10 know exactly the meaning of gay, or queer, or whatever term it was.

He really, really didn't.
   97. PreservedFish Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:29 PM (#4723655)
I didn't expect that Gaelan's name was Gaelan.
   98. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:44 PM (#4723660)
I didn't expect that Gaelan's name was Gaelan.


Might explain a few things, I suppose.

(I've noted before that my former stepdaughter & her husband named their son Galen. Either it's a family name, or they despise the kid. Could be both, I guess.)
   99. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 11, 2014 at 07:52 PM (#4723665)
(I've noted before that my former stepdaughter & her husband named their son Galen. Either it's a family name, or they despise the kid. Could be both, I guess.)

Yeah, and the parents of 1967 Masters champion Gay Brewer and renowned writer Gay Talese must have positively despised their kids.
   100. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 11, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4723675)
Marvin Gaye added the extra "e" to his last name to deflect the homosexual connotation. (As opposed to Dionne Warwick, who briefly became Warwicke after being advised by a numerologist that an "e" would improve her luck. You know, the kind of personal luck Marvin Gaye had.)
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