Tommy Lasorda is dumber than ten dogs high-fiving.
It was the last day of the regular season, and Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker had just gone deep off the Astros’ J.R. Richard. It was Baker’s 30th home run, making the Dodgers the first team in history to have four sluggers—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers each. It was a wild, triumphant moment and a good omen as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Burke, waiting on deck, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back,” says Baker, now 62 and managing the Reds. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”
Burke then stepped up and launched his first major league home run. And as he returned to the dugout, Baker high-fived him. From there, the story goes, the high five went ricocheting around the world. (According to Dodgers team historian Mark Langill, the game was not televised, and no footage survives.)...
It was around that time that Burke struck up a relationship with Spunky Lasorda, aka Tommy Lasorda Jr. Spunky was a lithe young socialite who frequented West Hollywood’s gay scene, smoking cigarettes from a long holder. A 1992 GQ profile of Spunky portrays his homosexuality as an open secret. But his father was in staunch denial and remained so even after Spunky’s death in 1991 from pneumonia. GQ reported that the death certificate said his illness was likely AIDS-related. “My son wasn’t gay. No way,” Lasorda Sr. told the magazine.
Burke and Spunky’s relationship didn’t become public until years later and remains ambiguous. Burke’s sister, Lutha Davis, insists the two men were just close friends. In his 1995 memoir Out at Home, co-authored with Erik Sherman, Burke went out of his way to leave the true nature of their relationship unclear. “That’s my business,” he wrote. He also explained that Lasorda Sr.‘s homophobia was something he and Spunky commiserated about. Burke described them turning up together at Lasorda’s house one night, done up in pigtails and drag, hoping to stage a kind of gay Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. They chickened out before knocking on the door.