Friday, March 27, 2009

A Historical Note on Roller Derby

“If we can’t put people in cars, then put them on wheels.”
-Bill Veeck

Wild man Bill Veeck was widely known for his antics off the field as much on the field. Possibly his most flamboyant attempt to filling seats at old Sportsman park in St. Louis was parading midget Eddie Gaedel in 1951 and having him bat clean-up. But, Veeck played a larger role in the establishment of another sport. During his tenure as owner for the Chicago White Sox, Veeck was widely critized for planning his now infamous Disco Demolition Night that caused a riot on the field of Comiskey Park. His shareholders would not let him hold another one (there were record ticket sales for that game) so Veeck came up with another plan – let’s put the drivers on wheels. A banked track was constructed in center field and 15 men were instructed to race, no-holds-barred around the track on roller skates. The men took off and chaos broke out on the track (many of the men had never been on skates before). But the collage of violence and racing captivated the audience and Veeck decided to hold five more roller derby nights that year. The exhibitions grew and soon small pockets of Roller Derby fanciers started their own leagues in and around Chicago. It wasn’t until the early 80’s that a clear set of rules for the sport was intact, but its popularity grew and even spawned a television show, Roller Wars, in 1987. Currently there are over 52 Roller Derby leagues in the US, headed by the most popular outfit in Los Angeles, the LA Roller Derby Dolls -

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