Remembering ROLLER DERBY… Girls fighting & bumping while skating….. and guys doing the same

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Roller Derby, a roller skate contact team sport comprised initially of female opponents was first televised in in the 1940s and extended well into the 1970s.

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The Olympic auditorium was the home for Roller Derby’s Los Angeles T-Birds. Who can forget John Hall, Red Smart; Teri Lynch; Shirley Hardman; Ronnie “Psycho” Rains; Charlie “Spec” Saunders; Sally Vega; Gwen “Skinny Minny” Miller; Danny Reilly and, of course, the greatest clutch performer this city has ever known, Ralphie Valladeres!

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In 1948, Roller Derby debuted on New York television—broadcasting well before television viewership was widespread.The broadcasts increased spectator turnout for live matches. For the 1949–1950 season, Seltzer formed the National Roller Derby League (NRDL).

Leo A. Seltzer, (April 5, 1903 – January 30, 1978) is generally credited as the creator of the sport of roller derby, and was the founder and head of the original Roller Derby league from 1935 until his son Jerry Seltzer took over the business in 1958.

Roller Derby’s fluctuating popularity
With dwindling attendance, Roller Derby left America to tour Europe in 1953, but returned the following year. Seltzer moved the headquarters to the West Coast, a few years before major league baseball would make the same move. Leo never lost his vision that the game would once again be embraced by the country, but by 1958, it was time for son Jerry to take over day-to-day operation of the family business. Jerry Seltzer (born June 3, 1932), once again took the sport to great heights by syndicating Roller Derby telecasts, featuring the San Francisco Bay Bombers, which were shown on a network of 120 TV stations across the country. Roller Derby broadcasts beat all competition in most markets.

Derby’s national tour became so successful that by 1969, the Bay Bombers were broken up into a San Francisco and Oakland team. These two units filled arenas across the country from 1969 through 1971, when a third unit was added.

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Leo Seltzer lived to see his game once again break attendance records all over the country and become the darling of the mainstream press under Jerry’s guardianship. However, the original Roller Derby skated its last game on December 8, 1973, when Jerry sold the family business.

Bill Griffiths Sr. acted as the roller derby promoter. Dick Lane was the television announcer for roller derby until he retired in the mid-1970s.


4 thoughts on “Remembering ROLLER DERBY… Girls fighting & bumping while skating….. and guys doing the same

  1. I read recently that there is some interest in bringing this back… I don’t know how reliable the source is, but what a hoot that would be, eh?

  2. It would be an excellent move for both women and men. Consider the unique contests that can result. I am certain that there would be no sole women or men teams, but a teaming together based on strength, skill and strategies. Yes, this would be exciting.

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