Photo courtesy of the L.A. Dodgers
Photo courtesy of the L.A. Dodgers

Former Dodger outfielder Glenn Burke – the first major league player to say he was gay
after leaving the sport – was among three men posthumously inducted into the Baseball
Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals Sunday in a ceremony at the Pasadena Central Library.
Joining Burke in the 17th class of electees were the 1950s Pacific Coast
League power-hitting star Steve Bilko and baseball card pioneer Sy Berger.
The ceremony began with the traditional ceremonial bell ringing in
honor of the late Brooklyn Dodgers fan Hilda Chester who would ring a cowbell
from the bleachers of Ebbets Field.
Also to be honored were Tom Keefe, receiving the Hilda Award,
which recognizes distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan and was
established in memory of Chester; and Gary Joseph Cieradkowski, who was to
receive the Tony Salin Memorial Award, which recognizes individuals for their
commitment to the preservation of baseball history.
Keefe is the founder and president of the Eddie Gaedel Society, Spokane
Chapter No. 1, which promotes the legacy of the 3-foot-7-inch St. Louis Browns
pinch-hitter. It meets annually on Aug. 19, the anniversary of Gaedel’s lone
appearance in Major League Baseball.
Cieradkowski is the creator of The Infinite Baseball Card Set blog,
which features baseball cards of unique real and fictional players in the style
of the tobacco cards of the late 19th and early 20th century, combined with
biographical material.
Following the award presentations, the keynote address will be delivered
by author Charlie Vascellaro, renowned for his presentations on the history
of Arizona’s Cactus League.
The Monrovia-based Baseball Reliquary, founded in 1997, bills itself as
a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of
American art and culture though the context of baseball history and exploring
the sport’s unparalleled creative possibilities.
More information about the Induction Day ceremony and the Baseball
Reliquary is available by contacting Terry Cannon at (626) 791-7647 or by email
Burke played for the Dodgers from 1976 through 1978 and the Oakland A’s
in 1978 and 1979. Burke revealed in a 1982 interview with Inside Sports
magazine that he was gay, the first major leaguer to publicly acknowledge he
was gay.
Burke also figured in the creation of the high-five.
After Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run at the end of the 1977 regular
season — making the Dodgers the first team to have four players with at least
30 home runs — Burke raised his hands in celebration at home plate.
As Baker crossed home plate he reached up, slapped one, and the high-
five was born.
Burke died of complications for AIDS-related illness in 1995 at the age
of 42.
Burke’s induction will be accepted by his sister Paula Hunt. Burke will
be introduced by Doug Harris, a co-producer of the 2010 documentary, “Out. The
Glenn Burke Story.”
Playing for the Los Angeles Angels, based at the since-demolished
Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles, Bilko led the Pacific Coast League in home
runs in 1955, 1956 and 1957.
He won the league’s triple crown in 1956 and was Los Angeles’ biggest
sports star before the arrival of the Dodgers in 1958.
Bilko played for the Dodgers during their inaugural season in Los
Angeles and with the Angels in their first two seasons in the American League,
1961 and 1962.
Comedian Phil Silvers named the character he played in his 1955-59 CBS
comedy for Bilko.
He died in 1978 at age 49. His induction will be accepted by his eldest
son, Stephen R. Bilko.
Bilko will be introduced by John Schulian, a newspaper sports columnist
turned television producer and writer, and Gaylon H. White, author of “The
Bilko Athletic Club: The Story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels.”
Berger is considered the “Father of the Modern Day Baseball Card,”
designing and overseeing production of some of the most innovative and revered
baseball cards of all-time when he worked for the Topps Co., and making
baseball card collecting a popular hobby.
Berger died on Dec. 14 at age 91. His induction will be accepted by his
daughter, Maxine Berger. He will be introduced by his son Glenn Berger, who
will share stories about his father.
He topped the field of 50 candidates, receiving votes on 33 percent of
the ballots returned by members of the Baseball Reliquary. Bilko was second
with 31 percent and Burke third, also with 31 percent.
Runners-up included sportscaster Bob Costas (30 percent), two-sport star
Bo Jackson (29 percent), 1970s pitching star J.R. Richard (29 percent),
three-time Olympic gold medal-winning softball pitcher Lisa Fernandez (26
percent) and the late Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley (26 percent).
The three candidates receiving the most votes are elected to the Shrine
of the Eternals, which differs from the Hall of Fame in that statistical
accomplishment is not the principal criterion for election.
Its criteria are distinctiveness of play (good or bad), the uniqueness
of character and personality and the imprint the individual has made on the
baseball landscape, according to the organization’s website.
Electees, both on and off the field, shall have been responsible for
developing baseball through athletic and or business achievements, in terms or
its larger cultural and sociological impact as mass entertainment and as an
arena for the human imagination.
–City News Service

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