Amazon Studios has lined up some potentially heart-wrenching dramas, but nothing may be as compelling as the creation of the high five. The media company has ordered a script rewrite for a film about Glenn Burke, a Major League Baseball player who's credited with the first-recorded instance of the iconic gesture when he congratulated a teammate on a home run in October 1977. He's also the first and only MLB athlete to come out as gay to teammates and owners while professionally playing -- and conceivably, Amazon's High Five film will tell his story.
Burke tragically passed away in 1995 due to complications from AIDS, but his stature as a pioneering figure in professional American sports lives on. According to The Atlantic, he was very open about his sexuality -- but during his four-year career in the MLB in the late 70s, the press refused to print his truth: "I think everyone just pretended not to hear me. It just wasn't a story they were ready to hear."
"My mission as a gay ballplayer was the breaking of a stereotype," He reportedly told People magazine during a tour promoting his book in 1995. "I think it worked ... 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."
Jamie Lee Curtis bought the rights to a film adaptation of Burke's book, which she announced in April (appropriately, on National High Five Day). But news of the rewrite means the project is moving forward. While his life has been overshadowed by his alleged invention of the supreme celebratory gesture, hopefully a movie can do his achievements justice. In the meantime, ESPN's 30 for 30 on Burke is a good primer.