CSN Bay Area: Are we ready for next Glenn Burke?

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CSN Bay Area: Are we ready for next Glenn Burke?

By Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

Sadly, the tail end of "Out. The Glenn Burke Story" rings all too familiar.

Might the end be different were the story to play out right now? Let's hope so. There's reason to believe as much.

Burke, the first openly gay big-league baseball player whose remarkable and tragic story is documented in the compelling Comcast SportsNet Bay Area film that premieres Tuesday night on VERSUS (10 p.m. EDT), died of complications related to AIDS in 1995.

Of course he did, you're probably thinking -- and feeling more than a little guilty for thinking it. It's the uncomfortable little box into which so many people place the plight of homosexuals -- particularly men -- of that decade.

And let's face it: The very idea of homosexuality remains uncomfortable for many, even in what we'd like to think is an age of greater tolerance and enlightenment.

The idea of homosexuality in professional sports? More uncomfortable still -- in male professional sports.

For some reason, and perhaps as evidence that we actually do have greater tolerance and enlightenment than in decades past, we're OK with Martina Navratilova being "out." We make the unfair assumption that many members of the LPGA Tour, the WNBA and the wide-ranging world of women's softball are gay, and there's a collective shrug.

Sure, there will be some less-than-enlightened, crass cracks at the workplace water cooler the day after the WNBA title game or the LPGA Tour Championship. For the most part, though, our society has something of a don't askdon't tell acceptance of homosexuality in women's sport.

Yet the machismo associated with -- and essentially considered a requirement of -- being a star male athlete seems so counter to the notion of a man being attracted to, loving, and living a fulfilling, this-is-who-we-are life with another man that it's difficult to imagine such a man being accepted in that testosterone-fueled world.

Well, guess what? Gay men have testosterone, too. "Out" makes that quite clear at a number of checkpoints along the route of Burke's path.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, the Wednesday premier of which will be followed by town-hall, star-studded edition of "Chronicle Live" from the Castro, CSN California A's analyst Shooty Babitt, a former friend and teammate of Burke, details a dugout confrontation between himself and another teammate.

Burke jumped into it, ready to defend Babitt with his fists, and by all accounts Burke was more than capable of handing out a vicious beating. In a refreshing, thought-provoking and illuminating moment of candor that marks the brilliantly produced piece as a whole, Babitt admits that he was internally torn.

He wondered: If I let Glenn help me here, is he going to want something in return?

We all know what something means in this instance, right?

This is Shooty Babitt we're talking about. He was down with Burke in every other way. Both products of the phenomenally fertile athletic ground that was Berkeley in the 1960s and '70s, they shared a kinship, a pride and a goal, if not a lifestyle.

It was that lifestyle that gave Babitt pause in that particular moment, and you could see it in his always animated, expressive eyes: he feels a little sheepish about it now.

Why? Because we are more tolerant and enlightened now. Not as much as we'd like to be; racism still exists even though we have a black President, and as long as there is a political left and right, as long as religion in its many forms exists, there will be raging debates over sexual preferences, acceptance and appropriateness.

Yet Babitt's eyes tell of progress -- and beg the question: Would Burke's lifestyle play in the big leagues, circa 2010?

We'd like to think so, but the fact is that we won't have a definitive answer until a genuine superstar male athlete musters the courage to actually be the question and "come out" in the prime of his career.

Burke might very well have become a superstar had the game not "excused" him, as Reggie Smith so poignantly put it in the film. But it did, and it wasn't difficult to do so because nobody is going to get up in arms over a guy batting .250 being traded or sent to the minors.

Though he wasn't "out" publicly, everybody within the Dodgers and A's organizations knew Burke was gay. Burke's relationship with Tommy Lasorda's gay son prompted the trade to the A's, and Billy Martin's disgusting brand of bigotry sent Burke to the bush leagues.

Had Burke been batting .350? Who knows? It likely wouldn't have swayed Martin, who will forever lose you as a Billy Ball fan if you are one before you see this film, but we all know special players get special treatment.

That's why the first step toward acceptance of gay men in sport would have to be taken by a franchise player at best, a respected veteran All-Star at worst.

Would Derek Jeter have been "excused" from baseball had he used the platform of a World Series parade in New York as his coming-out party? Tim Lincecum? Does Kevin Garnett get run out of Boston if comes out during the NBA Finals? Anyone going to tell Patrick Willis he's no longer welcome in the huddle if he announces he's getting married to a guy named Hank?

Probably not. Performance in male professional sports is king, even if the Billy Martins of the world want to call the man a queen.

We won't know how truly tolerant and enlightened we are, though, until such a moment actually happens.

Until some brave, gifted young man steps up. And "Out."

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scored runs in bunches in tallying four consecutive victories. They leaned on pitching and defense to earn their latest.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners for their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third win in a row for Rodriguez (4-1), who gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

"I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm never really thinking about numbers. I just go out there and throw my pitches and do the best I can do."

That effort is producing one of the best stretches of his three-year career.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span. He hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings and only 11 runs in his last 49 1/3 innings. His ERA is just 2.01 over that same period.

"He was amazing," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Put zeroes on the board all night long. And he made the big pitch when he needed to."

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Manager John Farrell said his 24-year-old pitcher is in a "very good place" right now.

"He was powerful tonight," he said. "It's just a matter of his abilities coming together. This has always been an extremely talented young guy. We've talked about his maturity, we've talked about his progression. It's been on display here for a good number of starts consecutively."

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs.

"The whole night obviously wasn't consistent," he said.

Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help defensively. Bradley had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBIs in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

MISSING: OFFENSE

Mariners manager Scott Servais said they are doing everything they can to find production from an offense that has gone missing.

"Offensively, we struggled to put innings together. That's kind of been the story here for the last week or so, we just haven't gotten the line moving at all, for whatever reason," he said. "Guys are frustrated by it, we all are. We know we're better than that, offensively. It's not happening right now."

Seattle was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his first major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP