Click on the link above to see the photo and the book!
Over 45 years ago Sports Illustrated sent a young writer to Oakland to do a feature on the three most eccentric sports owners: Al Davis of the Raiders, Charlie Finley of the A’s, and Franklin Mieuli of the Warriors. I think they wanted to see if there was something in the East Bay water that brought such eccentricity to the sports franchises.
And while talking to the sports editor of the Oakland Tribune, it was suggested that Frank check out one of the little known owners (of the International Roller Derby League), Jerry Seltzer.
So Frank came by our offices, found out we were the hub for the international attraction that drew millions of viewers to television and tens of thousands to live games, and that so many were not even aware of our existence (sound familiar?)
So Frank became intrigued, did the story on the three nutcases, and somehow convinced his editor to write about America’s hidden game.
He joined the Bombers on their annual Eastern trek across the US (covered on an earlier post; now you have to read all 350), and ending up writing the longest feature (until then) that had ever been in Sports Illustrated: the March 1969 issue with Vince Lombardi on the cover. And the piece showed why Frank would become America’s greatest sportswriter; today he is on PBR every Wednesday, on HBO’s Real Sports, dozens of documentaries, and he has written a number of wonderful books, some became movies and television shows.
Well the purist readers of SI were upset; why write about Roller Derby of all things? But the publisher Little Brown thought it would be a wonderful book (Frank’s first), and when Five Strides on the Banked Track was released, it immediately became a classic. Just try and find a copy today!
Well, the good news is that this March it will be available for the first time since the original publication as an e-book. And for that magic woo woo moment, who is one of the people fact checking and polishing it for release? Timothy Andrew Travaglini of the New York Shock Exchange, the great men’s Roller Derby League.
Keep checking on Amazon for this gem……and I think Frank did a good job of catching the essence of the boy promoter and the crazy times of Roller Derby and its people.