the greatest skater of the 60s and 70s left us yesterday.

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This is an interview from yesterday by radio host Terry Sol on the Derby life of the legend Charlie O’Connell, who left us on Monday.

He was the last to go of the great Derby heroes of that era:  Joan Weston, Ken Monte, Ann Calvello, Bob Hein, and most recently, Annis Jensen.  Others still survive, thankfully.

Charlie brought a rugged sports mentality to the Derby, which relied much more on finesse prior to that time…..A bigger than life (6 foot 2, 200 pounds) skater who towered over most of the others.  And he played the game as he played football and hockey, skate fast, hit hard, and never backed down.  The pivot positon – the player who could block, jam, and quarterback the pack was really created for him.  The recalcitrant hero, didn’t like interviews, autographs, was gruff, but adored by fans everywhere…..He and Joan Weston signified the Bay Bombers for years to the millions who watched on television and in person.

I felt bad that the interview was just hours after I had heard the unexpected news of his death; I didn’t mention his wife, Judi McGuire, who was not only his soul mate but was a great athlete herself, skating for the New York Chiefs for years…..She survives him as does Charlie, Jr, and Shari.

Hope you will take the time to listen and watch (about a half hour, if you have ADD like me, break it up).  It will help you understand (and some remember) what the world was like for all of us in that magical era.

I still can’t believe it.

9 comments on “the greatest skater of the 60s and 70s left us yesterday.

  1. Charlie was my hero growing up. How I loved to watch him on the track and in the brawls. I couldn’t wait to go in person whenever they were in the area. I am 57 years old now and never had the fortune to meet Charlie in person. Isn’t it strange how someone who was your hero as a teenager 40 years ago, someone you never met, can leave such sense of loss in your heart when you hear he is gone. God bless Charlie O’Connell. God bless you too Jerry for keeping us connected to such a wonderful season in our lives.
    Brad Warren

  2. Boy, one of the greatest to ever put on the skates! ALOHA Charlie O’, NOBODY will ever take your place! He’s on the banked track in Heaven now, throwing elbows with the Bald Eagle Bob Hein and Ronnie Robinson as well as many others we’ve had the privilege of watching and cheering in our lifetimes. God Bless Charlie O’Connell and his family, may he rest in peace and may Roller Derby and fans forever remember our fallen stars and heroes of the Banked track.

  3. Charlie O, was the best of them all. I also remember he being on You Asked for It back in the fifties,as being the fastest man on skates at the time. The tracks were longer and had a much higher bank back in the fifties. I believe that Charlie was clocked at over 62 mph on that tv show. It’s because of Charlie that got me started at the training school in Alameda back in the 1970’s under Buddy Sr.. Those were some great times for me. I would love to put those skates on again even at age 67. Well Charlie is with other great skaters now,and I hope he is having fun on the banked track in the sky.

  4. I would watch Roller Derby every Saturday just to see Charlie O’Connor and Joanie Weston. I’m 60 now but I will never forget !

    • Yep, I too watched Roller Derby on Saturdays on KTVU Channel 2 at Noon, and than again at 5:15PM on Sunday evenings. Loved going to go to the Cow Palace, and watch the death matches against Robinson or Woodberry. Those 2 hours were our family nights together, and we all loved it. REST IN PEACE CHARLIE!!

  5. I was a young kid going to the BayArea to watch the Bombers. Some of my favorite times were going with my cousin Sharon and her best Friend Patty and sitting in the front row and having the time of my life. I was fortunate to meet one of the skaters for the bombers who was a high school friend of my cousin and Patty, unfortunately I do not remember her name I just remember being in awe of her. Charley O was so awesome with those big arm guards he was for sure an opposing figure.

    • If she played on the Bombers, her name was either Joanie Weston, Carol ( Peanuts ) Myers, Dolores Tucker, or Judy Mac Quire.

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