Ever wonder where the high five came from? We did too here at RVUSA.com, and with High Five Day coming soon, we thought we could all brush up on our history lessons a bit…
There are many different origin stories for the high five, but the most common is from a 1977 baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.
It is said that during the last game of the season two players created the celebratory action. Dusty Baker, the Dodgers outfielder, had hit a home run, making it his 30th of the season. Though this is rather outstanding in itself, that home run made the Dodgers the first team in Major League history to have four players on the same team hit 30 home runs. One of Baker’s teammates, Glenn Burke, was waiting for Baker to cross home plate, and Burke excitedly lifted his arms in the air as he did so.
From here, legend has it that when Glenn put his hands up in the air, Baker didn’t know what to do or how to react. So, he simply slapped it. The rest is history.
Though the high five actually dates back to the 1920s, most people think it finally stuck after this incident because there was so much emotion and energy between the two players. It brought on pride and joy throughout the rest of the team and the fans, so they chose to perform the act over the upcoming seasons to the delight of everyone.
Burke’s time with the Dodgers didn’t last for long, though. His teammates knew that he was gay, but in 1978, despite the fact that he was a highly valuable player, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics. Some of Burke’s teammates still say he was traded only because of his sexuality. In the Bay Area though, he became a positive symbol in the gay community, bringing with him his high five. Because Burke wasn’t given much playing time with Oakland, he quit the major leagues after five seasons. He died from AIDS in 1995 at the age of 42. Its been about 40 years since the duo unintentionally invited the high five, and it still stands as a universal action of celebration.
If you ask Baker today if he invited the high five, he’ll say he simply responded to his teammates actions, and that he mostly credits Burke for its popularity.
Another origin story, first noted in 1980, says the first use of the high five was at a University of Louisville Cardinals basketball practice between the 1978-1979 season. Wiley Brown went to give his teammate Derek Smith a basic low five, but Smith abruptly said they should do a high five instead. Brown thought it was a good and rather unique idea, because they jump so high during the game. High fives are everywhere in the highlight reels of that season.
Though these stories are the most common, some think the high five might be traced back to Ancient Egyptians as far as 3200 B.C. Hieroglyphics depict the act, but it’s still unsure if a modern day high five is what is being portrayed. Because of the lack of evidence, most scholars continue to credit the high five to Burke and Baker.
Because the high five has become so popular over the decades, it now has its own day dedicated to the act. Ever since 2002, the third Thursday in April is known as National High Five Day. The point of the day is to hand out as many high fives as possible within the 24 hours. It all started with a few University of Virginia students who wanted to raise money for a different cause each year.
There you have it, RVUSA.com readers! Next time you give someone a high five, be sure to tell them just exactly where it came from. Don’t forget to keep coming back for more interesting history lessons and odd information.
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