Jerry Seltzer bio “Seltzer is the head of the third wave of American sports promoters this century” Frank Deford


Jerry was born June 3,1932 in Portland, Oregon.  His father Leo operated 3 movie theaters in Portland but had become intrigued with Walkathons, a marathon-type event that he then produced until 1935 when he had the idea of putting the participants on roller skates on a banked track.  Thus Roller Derby was born.

Jerry attended Stanford and Northwestern Universities, then entered the US Army where he served in the Counter Intelligence corps in Austria.  A few years after his return to the US he took over the operation of the International Roller Derby League and ran it from 1959  to 1973 when it ceased operations.  Roller Derby became so popular in the Bay Area, that it outdrew all professional sports teams except for the Giants.  He produced a one hour tape series weekly which was also distributed to over 110 stations  in the US and Canada.  He did color commentary on many of the telecasts and announced on a few.

Live games were scheduled in major arenas and stadia across the country, and some of the attendance records set were 19,500 at Madison Square Garden; 14,727 at Oracle Arena, Oakland; 27,000 at Shea Stadium New York; 34,544 at The Oakland Stadium; and 50,114 at White Sox Park in Chicago.

He was contacted by Lamar Hunt and a group of AFL football owners to head up a consortium to buy the Oakland Seals of the NHL.  Although his group had the endorsement of the Oakland Coliseum Arena and local media, the NHL chose Charlie Finley who had to suspend operations within two years.

His PR firm (Gerald E. Seltzer and Associates) consulted for the Oakland Clippers of the NASL Soccer league, and headed the campaign to keep trucks off of interstate 580 through the center of Oakland (still in effect today!)

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

While with BASS he produced  concerts for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard for a client. Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager, presented him with a Platinum record of Willie’s for helping to boost his career.  Also co-produced two Russian River Music Festivals in Guerneville, Ca.

He also presented the Highwaymen (Willie, Waylon, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson) in two concerts for the BASS Ticket Foundation, which provided tickets for the underserved in the community.  BASS was also the exclusive ticketing agency used by Bill Graham presents, the Oakland Coliseum Complex, Shorenstein Nederlander theatres, The SF Giants, The Oakland Raiders, The 49ers, the Oakland As, Shoreline Arena, HP Pavilion, Arco Arena and dozens more.

He was also selected to handle the ticketing (and tour with) Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue.

In 1970 he produced “Derby”, a documentary about the players in the game, which was judged the best film at the San Francisco Film Festival , and which received excellent reviews from the New York Times, Saturday Review, and most of the critics of the day.  Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars….He also produced “First Position”, a cinema verite film centered on the American Ballet School in New York City, with appearances by many of the leading dancers in the world.

In 1974 he and partner Hal Silen started BASS tickets in the Bay Area, the first wholly owned independent computerized service.  It provided many producer and customer services that Ticketron hadn’t, and became the dominant ticket service in the SF Bay Area.  BASS systems were sold to Vancouver,  Houston, and Melbourne (Australia).  On November 18, 1985, San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan declared it as “Jerry Seltzer Day” in acknowledgment of his involvement with Thunder Road, a teenage drug and rehab center.

Hal and Jerry also created the BASS Tickets Foundation, which provided over $ 1 million in tickets annually to over 200 underserved non profits in the Bay Area so their clients could see various entertainments, and they worked with the San Francisco Ballet to have special presentations with children from urban areas to meet the dancers and understand and appreciate areas they might never know.

In 1983 Seltzer joined Ticketmaster as executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales, and created the same kind of services that BASS provided and within 5 years the company had virtually eliminated Ticketron from the marketplace.  He also provided management help for various local offices including New York, Chicago, Denver, Orlando and Miami.

After leaving Ticketmaster in 1993 he moved from Santa Monica to Sonoma, California, sitting on a number of non-profit boards including the Bay Area American Red Cross.  He was asked by Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Church to help to secure a venue and help with the marketing and fund raising for  the 30th aniversary celebration of the church with Robin Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelo and others that raised over $300,000.  He was also an initial consultant for Stub Hub.

In 1997 he co-founded the Sonoma Film Festival which today is considered one of the leading independent festivals. Proceeds from the Festival were used to restore the classic Sebastiani theatre. The following year funds were raised for lights for events at the Sebastiani.  He helped present “Derby Baby” at the festival in 2012.

He and his sister Gloria Gurian donated land in Seaside Oregon to create Seltzer Park near Leo’s home, and presented concerts with Willie Nelson and the Smothers Brothers to raise funds. He had served on the Bay Area Board of the American Red Cross and in the past three years was involved with the Red Cross and Brown Paper Tickets in co-ordinating blood drives in Northern California, New England, Chicago, Florida, Pennsylvania, and  New York….over the last several years over 3300 lives were saved from the blood donated.

He also serves as “The Commissioner” of modern day Roller Derby.  there are now 1967 amateur  leagues in 65 countries encompassing over 100,000 participants (www.derbylisting.com).  He has no official capacity other than advisor to the various leagues on a non-compensated basis.  The Seltzer Cup, named for his father, is presented by at the annual USARS national championship.  And Texas Roller Derby, the first modern Roller Derby banked track league, features the Ann Calvello Cup, which is presented annually to its championship team.

He joined Brown Paper Tickets in sales outreach in 2013 and recently resigned to concentrate on consulting.

He has a blog:  www.rollerderbyjesus.com.  Featured in “Five Strides on the Banked Track”, Frank Deford, Little Brown;  “A very simple game” Herb Michelson; “From Roller Derby to Rollerjam” Keith Coppage;  “Ticket Masters” by Dean Burdick; “Bay Area Roller Derby” by Keith Coppage and Jerry Seltzer.  and of course a wikipedia page. he twitters @jeryseltzer, and has over 8000 friends and followers on facebook…, and his blog has had almost 400,000 viewings.  He was featured in a recent BBC presentation on Roller Derby, in a segment of “Strange Inheritances” on Fox Business Channel and in the Mark Greczmiel documentary on the late, lamented, Oakland Seals Hockey team of the NHL.  And he was featured in the CBS television program “Decades” on 8/13/2018.

Recently he was the subject of the April 2017 issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine and a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle relating to the 20th anniversary of the Sonoma Film Festival.  He also co-presented on behalf of Brown Paper Tickets the World Roller Derby Week in Chicago August 13 to 19 2017..the event on August 13 took place on the original site of the Chicago Coliseum, where his father and he presented Roller Derby.

The American Red Cross Northwest selected him as a 2018 Red Cross Hero for the blood drives, and he was honored at a function in Santa Rosa, Ca.

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Al Davis, Roller Derby, and me


Al Davis died at the age of 82.

Maybe some of you don’t know who he was.  He was the enigmatic owner of the Oakland Raiders, and if you look up enigmatic in the dictionary, you will find his name.

Roller Derby and the Raiders were contemporaneous in the Bay Area.  When the American Football League started it was announced that Oakland would have its own team, the Senors.  Well, that wasn’t even grammatically correct in Spanish, and they changed the name to “Raiders” and played their first season in San Francisco.  The team was put together and financed by a group headed by Wayne Valley, a successful builder of homes who brought in a bunch of his East Bay friends.  They hired Al Davis as general manager and coach.

On a piece of land in Oakland they put up temporary grandstands, called it Frank Youell Field and hosted the games awaiting the completion of the new Oakland Coliseum sports complex in 1963.  Our very own Peggy Brown was friends with their ticket manager, and we handled the tickets and day of game sale for the team.  The box office looked like an outhouse, a single light bulb dangling inside, and Peggy was able to pack the unsold tickets and receipts in the trunk of her trusty old Cadillac.

Al hated the NFL and it was largely due to his efforts that Oakland was one of the most successful teams in the new league, as well as demanding equality when the leagues merged.  He was a god in Oakland.  One night I was at Mitch’s, a popular neighborhood restaurant in Oakland, when Al and his wife came in.  Now it was a Thursday, and Al usually came in on Friday, and a couple was sitting in “his” table.  The owner hurried over, grabbed the people’s place settings and moved them all to another table.  They were stunned, but Al took it matter of factly.

Eventually Al took over all management of the team, which pissed Wayne off; he had financed the team, he had brought in the others and hired Al, but that appeared to be forgotten.  It became all Al Davis and no mention of Wayne and the other locals, and Al was the general partner and had complete control.

When the Raiders moved to the Coliseum, Al went to the board and suggested that since this was an East Bay complex, it should be restricted to events by East Bay sports and others.  That would have meant, of course, that circuses, ice shows, rock shows, etc couldn’t play the buildings…..for some reason it was turned down.  His concern was that if any extra dollars were around, he wanted them to be spent on the Raiders.  We weren’t concerned; the Roller Derby headquarters were in Oakland.

Roller Derby was the 2nd event in the Arena portion of the complex, and we had over 10,000 people.  We usually played on Saturday nights, and often the Raiders were there also.  The Coliseum management reluctantly informed us that we would always have to start after the Raiders so they would get all the parking.  And we often ran into situations like that…..it was never anything personal between Al and me; he just felt the Raiders owned the city.

A young writer named Frank Deford was sent by Sports Illustrated to do a feature on the three (eccentric?) owners of teams in Oakland, Charlie Finley of the A’s, Franklin Miuli of the Warriors (who insisted on calling them the San Francisco Warriors) and of course, Al.

The sports editor of the Tribune asked Frank if he was aware of Roller Derby in Oakland, and he came to see me.  He did the story on the other teams, but also got permission to do a feature on Roller Derby which became the longest piece to date in SI….look it up and read it.  Frank expanded it into his book “Five Strides on the Banked Track” and has become the best sports-writer, commentator and novelist in America……I humbly point out my small role.

Eventually the Raiders moved to Los Angeles after becoming a mainstay in the NFL, and lo and behold I was there with Ticketmaster and was able to obtain their single game sales.  Now ticket companies think backwards: if a team is super successful they sell out with season tickets and there are not single game tickets to sell; if they are not successful they start to rebuild and there is demand for individual tickets is what we would sell.  The Raiders were a great example.  They played in the huge Coliseum, initially had not too many season tickets, and it was a great product for Ticketmaster.

Many people disliked Al, but he was good for Oakland and for football.  And because of him I had another opportunity.  Wayne Valley was fed up with “The Genius” as he called him, and when it was apparent that the NHL team in Oakland was failing and the league wanted to get a new operator, Wayne contacted me to head up a group of the former AFL owners (Lamar Hunt, Ralph Wilson, and 4 others) to present a package and then become the manager of the Oakland Hockey team.  That is another post, but somehow the league awarded it to Charlie Finley, and it crashed again within a couple of seasons.

Al built a great franchise, hired John Madden when Davis wasn’t coaching anymore,  and there were the wonderful Super Bowls, which many cities never experience.  But time passed him by, he wouldn’t let go of the reins, and the franchise started to fail.  It looks like it could be on its way up now.  He was one of the last remnants of the old days of controversial icons in sports.  I look around, and there aren’t many left.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge he never came to see the Bay Bombers skate, or even to watch when we had the 49ers skate the Raiders in Roller Derby.  However, I can assume that he, like so many others who denied it, watched our telecasts on Channel 2 on Sunday nights.