Five Strides on the Banked Track, the classic now available on Kindle or ebook!


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Roller Derby on the road.

Appeared as a short version in Sports Illustrated.

This classic sold out almost immediately and was never reprinted…..available at up to $600 from amazon.

this version will all the original photos and copy (and with a new forward by The Commissioner) is available at a very reasonable price. read the above information on how to get your copy.

At least we didn’t play Roller Derby there.


Tonight ends one of the worst swindles in the history of San Francisco.

I lived through all of it and remember…Charles Haney, a contractor, bought the worst piece of land in San Francisco at Hunter’s Point; conspired with Mayor George Christopher to privately build a stadium to bypass the voters; secretly made a deal with the City who bought back the land at ten times the price, paid Haney exorbitant fees to grade and prepare the stadium, and thus Candlestick Park came about.

It was built in the coldest part of the city, with the promise that a unique piped water heating system would keep the seats warm (it didn’t) and would be the greatest stadium in the country (it wasn’t).

The field was below sea level and never drained properly….hard to get to, parking terrible, and just an unholy sports venue.

Freezing in the summer for baseball; San Francisco suffered the embarrassment of the whole country seeing Giant pitcher Stu Miller blown off the mound during the All Star game.

Just a terrible cement edifice.

The only good thing? Ann Calvello in later years dolled up, and was a ticket taker at one of the gates for the 49ers.

So this dreadful place is gone….lucky they had the great 49ers playing there, and for those of us who remember the World Series of 1962 the games were cancelled for days because of heavy rain and a field that wouldn’t drain…..and the bad luck continued in 1989 when the earthquake stopped the World Series and of course last year when the electricity and lights failed during a Monday night game.

And San Francisco losing the Niners? they are moving 40 miles down 101 to a great venue with great parking and access in warm Santa Clara.

And here is something the newspapers and media didn’t want you to know (and of course I did, being in the ticket biz): the majority of fans were from the South Bay anyway.

I saw a lot of football (and some baseball) at the ‘stick. The best thing: two Rolling Stone Concerts about 25 years ago.

Stop the nostalgia….it was a terrible place.

The Roller Derby – Original Story in Sports Illustrated by Frank Deford…..America’s best sportswriter


The Roller Derby – 03.03.69 – SI Vault.

If you missed it, here it is…..click above.

Frank wrote his first book “Five Strides on the banked track” based on this article.

It takes you back 45 years ago with great insight into Derby then, the skaters and the promoter.

You will need about 20 minutes.

 

It is worth it.

My son (by a different mother and father) Cliff Butler


It was the wonderful people of Roller Derby that made it so successful over the years….hardly a profound statement, but true.

Of course there were Charlie O’Connell, Joan Weston, Ann Calvello, Bert Wall, Ken Monte, Margie Laszlo, and dozens more, but the one I always considered my personal protege was Cliff.

Cliff was born a natural athlete.  He first came around Derby when he was just 15, and although he grabbed the game almost immediately, we couldn’t have him start skating professionally until he was 16.  And we couldn’t use his real last name Avery because of complications, so he used his other family name Butler.

He first skated on the Hawaiian team, then moved over to Ken Monte’s team, the Cardinals. And under Ken, who skated a rough powerful game, he was able to develop his own style.  What was amazing was his body control; I don’t think anyone could use a jump block, utilizing his hip, as Cliff did.

He eventually moved over to the San Francisco Bay Bombers and became the super star that were the results of his natural ability.  And stars are what drew people to our game.  And eventually he received an offer to become coach (at 21 plus+) for the Ohio Jolters, with Ann Calvello as woman captain, and his legend continued to grow.

Cliff Butler

Cliff Butler

When Derby shut down in 1973 Cliff finished his college education and was employed at the GM/Toyota plant in Fremont California.  He then was hired by US Air and moved to Santa Barbara and just this past year retired from work.

Cliff does not stand still.  He was, and is, a great trainer of skaters and creator of game strategy, and he  started hopping to Colorado, Oregon, Arizona,  to utilize his unique talents, and his latest stop was in Killeen Texas, where he trained  the brand new league,  helped Jerra Bullock and the league promote and sell out their first game ever just a week ago (using Brown Paper Tickets of course), and they won against a far more experienced team with a fast and furious style of skating..

So now Cliff is being overwhelmed with requests for boot camps; he next will work with Mark Quad Damage on training the juniors in Tucson then on to other locations.

And I am here to “pimp” my son; contact him on Facebook and arrange a boot camp.  It will be different from anyone else, and you will learn techniques that have come down for 50 years and are so relevant today.  And those who have been trained love him:  ask Jerra Bullock or any of the others.  And those who can’t book him, don’t forget about John Hall, another veteran of Roller Derby who has given his knowledge and expertise to the San Diego team.

And Cliff knows how to build the traditional official Roller Derby Banked track, suspended on Dexy steel (not pipe) which can be set up by 8 people in less than three hours, and dismantled by the same crew in 1 and 1/2 hours.  And honestly, skating the banked track is a whole different experience.

So go to his facebook page, just tell him Dad sent you, and it will make your Derby days so much better!

And of course Cliff believes strongly in the empowerment of Derby participants.  You will never regret it.