filling out the rosters


Unknown newspaper clipping of male skaters.

When many people think of Roller Derby of the 60’s and 70’s, the names of stars come to mind:  Charlie O, Joan Weston, Ken Monte, Ann Calvello, Ronnie Robinson, Margie Laszlo, Bob Woodberry, Cliff Butler, Bob Hein, Buddy Jr, Bert Wall, Bobbie Mateer,  and more.  (Where’s Loretta?  She wasn’t skating Roller Derby when I took the helm.)

Actually it was the secondary players that made the game what it was.  It is not really fair to call them secondary players, but since we were concerned with who would draw the fans in, we knew the teams would have to be led by one or more of the skaters above to be meaningful to the box office.  And it was a very different game:  a maximum of 8 players of each sex on a team.  The rules were different:  the pivot skater could be a scorer if necessary;  there were two blockers and two jammers, and they could change positions between jams.  The players were penalized, not the helmets, and a maximum of two could be in the penalty box at one time.

Here are some names you may have heard:  Mike Gammon, Judy McGuire, Pete Mangone, May Mangone, Nick Scopas, Jan Vallow, Frank Macedo, Eddie Krebs, Lydia Clay, Cathy Read, Sandy Dunn, Carol Meyer, Delores Tucker, Lou Donovan, Judy Sowinski, Larry Smith, Francine Cochu, Jerry Cattell, Judy Arnold, Rosetta Saunders, Sam (Lia) Tiapula, Dewitt Quarles, Joe Foster, Gil Orozco, Ann Bauer, Pete Boyd, Bobby Seever  and don’t get mad if I didn’t list you;  just remind me.

You could only have so many  “stars” on a team or the game wouldn’t work.  I always thought our worst games were the annual All Star matches between the top stars of the East and the West, because all the roles of the game weren’t properly executed.

The secondary list probably would have become the superstars of the future, but our time ran out.  The real game was in the pack:  helping your players get out on a jam, stopping the opposing team from doing so; chasing down the jammers that had gotten out, and of course helping your players get points and stopping the opposition.

Roller Derby was and is a game of the pack.  If you control the pack, it makes no difference how great the opposing jammers are, you will have control of the game.  And the above skaters made the game exciting so that the stars looked good.  Of course there was a reason they were stars;  almost always defined so by the fans, but their skills depended on the team, even in the exhibition style of skating.

I loved watching Bill Groll in the pack; Roman and Gammon jamming, the physicality of Sandy Dunn, Lydia Clay who had greater skills than anyone realized.

Today’s Roller Derby is a complete team game.  The skill level will  only get better and better and right now most don’t have to worry about pleasing the audience, only themselves.  The future has not been defined yet, but it will.  Today there are 14 more leagues than there were just two weeks ago (approaching 800).  It is well on its way to becoming the major sport it should, and you all must work toward increasing your local audience.  Your game will bring them in…..you just have to let your community be aware of what you’re doing.

7 comments on “filling out the rosters

  1. Our Beloved Coach Bruce Bragassa was one of the players you talk about. I don’t believe he was ever a “Major” star but he played along time and gave it everything he had! He was known as “Jammer 65”. I think Joanie Weston named him! He played for the Hawain Warriors!

  2. I’ve never been a fan of all-star games (or teams) in derby. Nor pickup games in general. It’s like watching the Pro Bowl or the NBA All-Star game. I’d rather watch a couple of real teams with skaters who know how to work together face off.

  3. You coin a phrase that says it all about vintage Derby–“The Roles of the Game.” Every other sport would be concerned with the rules, the Derby was concerned with the Roles. I remember the terms the skaters understood: Top Skater (#40/Joan/Robinson/Margie), Second Skater (their strong backup–Orozco/Tillie/Groll/Sandy Dunn), Top Jammer who got all the points and into some mischief sometimes (The Gammons, the Smiths, the Romans!)…8 on a squad, everything revolving around the magic three… Excuse me while I pull out some yearbooks…!

  4. well, that’s not quite what I did, but the Derby did die under my watch…..I did not have hand-picked players, they had put in their time and were the best. I am sure your coach could have made it also. I am so happy that you are learning from him and that Roller Derby is what it is now without having to worry about the continuing costs of a major attraction, particularly in Crescent City.

    • He’s not my coach. He’s a teamate. Not only does he coach a team now but, he coached speed skating for 40 years. A true OG in skating. He’s not the only old school player that Ive heard this story from. Which, BTW, he can STILL SKATE, and will be on a Jefferson State All Star team very soon. The truth will come out!!

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