California Travel Tips

Bay Area Roller Derby Was Huge!

Published on: November 01, 2019


A book by Jerry Seltzer and Keith Coppage, Bay Area Roller Derby, documents an exciting history, provoking fond memories for the millions who enjoyed watching it in person or on TV.

This book is a much-needed tribute to those who helped make this sport so extremely popular. It was even considered as a possible Olympic sport.

Fascinating Derby tidbits:

The Bombers Phil Kaudubee also was seeking a Psychology Degree from the nearby University of California at Berkeley.

Charley O’Connell, perhaps the most famous skater & coach, also owned cocktail lounges in Alameda and San Leandro, which employed several fellow skaters.

Judy Sowinski, who started skating with a salary of $100 a week & an extra $25 for food on the road, ended up many decades later as a revered coach at 71.

Stars Gerri Abbatello & Joe Chaump got married and had a child that became a derby skater.

Icons Annis “Big Red” Jensen and Russ Baker’s daughter, Barbara Baker, became a fan favorite in 1968.

The entire International Roller Derby League lived in the Bay Area. But players could be moved to different teams and play around the country.

Roller Derby was one of the only sporting events not derived from something else.

Audiences felt a real closeness to their teams. They’d talk to players, help retrieve flying helmets, and, occasionally, assist a fallen skater or one who flew over the guide rails.

Read Craig MacDonald’s book review of this Arcadia Publishing gem…>

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