Today is the birthday of Frank Deford…..who really brought national attention to Roller Derby


National Roller Derby Hall of Fame.

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.

7 comments on “Today is the birthday of Frank Deford…..who really brought national attention to Roller Derby

  1. I actually have a copy of the book! The local library had a book sale and when I found it, I snapped it up. I read it at least once a year, especially when I need to get a “history lesson”. 🙂

  2. Mr, DeFord’s obituary on Joan Weston in The New York Times says it all about Roller Derby and the why it was so worthy of respect. Mr. Selter, why not reprint that? John Hilton

  3. I have reprinted it a number of times…..and actually that tribute by Frank triggered the Rollerjam revival which unfortunately was not a tribute to the game that Joan skated.

  4. Still trying to understand why someone from a flat track roller derby league would be ‘fact checking and polishing’ a book about the original Roller Derby, the work of Frank Deford? Most of those involved with this newest version of the sport proudly claim no knowledge of the original and keep their distance at all cost. And frankly, why would Deford’s classic book need ‘polishing’??? Sounds like asking a college ‘lit’ major to fact check and polish Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ Just sayin’…

    “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.”

  5. Timothy is not adding or changing anything….he is merely checking that after 40 years all the photos, etc rights still exist for the on line version……and even if not, you would be amazed at how so many of the modern derbyites respect their origins. there should not be any artificial walls from 1935 till today.

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