Sunday, July 22, 2007
[Gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno]
Born on July 8, 1834, in Cortland County, N.Y., Buck attended the historic Cortland Academy. He married Anna Bellows, daughter of Dr. M. B. Bellows, a physician, on Sept. 10, 1856. Two of their children, Emma L. and Frank H. Buck, were born in Cortland in the ensuing years.
During the Civil War, Leonard joined Company H, 157th New York Volunteer Infantry and soon was promoted to first lieutenant. He was discharged in February of 1863 on account of ill health.
The family then moved westward to Clinton, Iowa, where Leonard was involved in the lumber trade and in the hardware and grocery business. In 1874, Leonard traveled to California and, after a visit to Solano County, decided to move his family out to settle in the Vacaville area. His first land purchase consisted of the Long Ranch, or former Weldon Ranch, 107 acres in Vaca Valley.
Buck threw himself wholeheartedly into the orchard business. Through the advent of the transcontinental railroad, growers finally could reach the East Coast markets. His earlier merchandising background had given him the necessary contacts, and he became one of the first growers to ship his produce to the East Coast. The first carload of grapes ever sent out of Vaca Valley to Chicago was packed by him in 1876.
The Vacaville Reporter named Leonard Buck as one of the richest and most productive farmers of Solano County on August 30, 1884, “adapted to the cultivation of every agricultural product that can be grown, including all the semi-tropic fruits, but just now horticulture and viticulture are so profitable that no cereals are produced, and almost every available spot blossoms with a vine or is rooted with a fruit tree. His residence is very pleasantly located, and commands a pretty view of the valley, ...
“There are 500 almond, 200 peach, 100 pear, 500 plum, 1,500 apricot, 1,000 cherries and 1,000 apples, nectarines and prunes. Besides these, there are 30,000 vines of the Muscat, Tokay, Rose of Peru, Fontaine Bleau (sic) Cornuchon and Emperor varieties (these are all table grapes.) The peaches are mostly of the Susquehanna variety and of a very superior size and flavor. A part of them have already been engaged to a Chicago firm, at a fancy price; ...”
The volume of fruit produced inevitably led Leonard and Frank H. Buck into the packing and shipping business. In 1880, Leonard Buck established the California Fruit Shipping Association with headquarters in San Francisco. In the following year, he founded the L. W. & F. H. Buck company.
During his later years, he also found the energy to serve his community in other functions. In 1886, he was elected to the senate of the California legislature as a member of the Democratic Party. On March 27, 1889, he was appointed as a member of the State Board of Horticulture for the Second Horticultural District, which included Napa, Solano, and Contra Costa counties. He served on this board until his death in 1895.
Posted by Michael at 7:24 PM
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Glenn Burke was a Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979. Burke was the first Major League Baseball player to be out to his teammates and team owners during his professional career. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.
“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." - Glenn Burke
Burke was named Northern California's High School Basketball Player of the Year in 1970, and could run the 100 yard dash in 9.7 seconds. He was able to dunk a basketball using both hands - a remarkable accomplishment for someone who was just over six feet tall. He was considered capable of being a professional basketball player, but his first offer came from Major League Baseball. When he started his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays.
He is recognized as the player who invented the high five. In 1977 he ran out onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker for hitting a home run in the last game of the regular season. His celebration has since been imitated by athletes and fans in virtually every sport around the world. The second recorded "high five" came moments later when Baker returned the favor in celebration of Burke's first major league home run.
Glenn was also an accomplished high school basketball star, leading the Berkeley High School, California "Yellow Jackets" to an undefeated season and the 1970 Northern California championships. He was voted to the Tournament of Champions (TOC) and received a Northern California MVP award. After high school, Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system hitting well over .300 before being called up to the major league club.
As a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's Burke had 523 at-bats over his four seasons in the big leagues and had a career batting average of .237. He stole 35 bases.
Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his autobiography Out at Home, the Los Angeles Dodgers offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married. Burke refused to participate in the sham. He also angered Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland A's.
Faced with mounting difficulties, Burke eventually quit baseball. He stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." He returned for spring training with Oakland in 1980. Billy Martin, the newly hired manager of the Athletics made public statements about not wanting a gay man in his clubhouse. When Burke injured his knee before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. Burke then left professional sports for good at age 27.
In his 225 games in the majors, Burke batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBI and 35 stolen bases.
"My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked." Glenn Burke in People ~ November 1994
Burke continued his athletic endeavors after retiring from baseball. He competed in the 1986 Gay Games in basketball, and won medals in the 100 and 220 meter sprints in the first Gay Games in 1982. His jersey number at Berkeley High School was retired in his honor.
Burke's homosexuality became public knowledge in a 1982 article published by "Inside Sports" magazine. Although he remained active in amateur competition, Burke turned to drugs to fill the void in his life when his career ended. An addiction to cocaine destroyed him both physically and financially. In 1987 his leg and foot were crushed when he was hit by a car in San Francisco. After the accident his life went into physical and financial decline. He was arrested and jailed for drugs and for a time was homeless. His final months were spent with his sister in Oakland. He died of AIDS complications at age 42.
When news of his battle with AIDS became public knowledge in 1994, he received the support of his former teammates and the Oakland Athletics organization. In interviews given while he was fighting AIDS, he expressed little in the way of grudges, and only one big regret - that he never had the opportunity to pursue a second professional sports career in basketball.
Posted by Michael at 7:15 PM