High-Five: The History Lesson We All Need to Know

High-Five: The History Lesson We All Need to Know

A quintessential part of human interaction. The ultimate sign of comradery, appreciation, and stoke. We are, of course, talking about the high-five. 

With social distancing measures in place, social interactions are heavily limited. Physical touch even more so. Hugs and handshakes are taboo and the high five is all but (temporarily) forgotten. 

Not today world, not today. 

With last week marking the passing of National High-Five Day, we wanted to do quick dive into the history of “gimme five” and recognize the hero who made it all possible.

The most widely accepted story of the first high-five takes us back to the last game of the 1977 Los Angelos Dodgers regular season. Outfielder Dusty Baker was up to bat, and he desperately needed a home run.

Not so much as to win the game, but a home run would make the LA Dodgers the first team in MLB history to have 4 players hit 30 home runs in a season. Dusty was sitting at 29. 

He, of course, smacked one out of the park. 

The hero of our story, teammate and friend Glenn Burke, was waiting on deck as the ball soared over the back wall. 

As Dusty rounded third and touched home plate the team rushed to greet him. Burke was so incredibly stoked that he just threw his arm up into the air almost uncontrollably and Dusty, unsure of how to react, slapped it with joy.

The slap heard round the world, if you will

Jon Mooallem, a journalist who has documented the high five’s history, relayed Burke’s thoughts about the historic moment to ESPN.

“The way he used to tell the story of that first high five with Dusty Baker, wasn’t necessarily that he had innovated something, so much as that he was so overwhelmed with joy and pride of what Dusty had just done, that the high five came out of him, that Dusty had brought it out of him,” he told ESPN.

The Dodgers immediately adopted the now ubiquitous hand gesture into their team culture and the high-five spread around the world like wildfire. 

Sadly, Glenn Burke is no longer with us. But his memory lives on to fuel our joy and emotion. He told a newspaper reporter years after that day: “You think about the feeling you get when you give someone the high five. I had that feeling before everybody else.”

When all this is over, we’ll be waiting. Hands raised and spirits high.