Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gay Sports History 101 By Jerry Pritikin






The more things change, the more they seem the same... There was an article in todays Seattle Times about 3 Bi Sexual men who are suing the promoters of the 2008 Gay WorldSeries http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011657770_lawsuit21m.htm
because they were kicked out of Tournament because they were bi-sexual.


Back in 1978, I played on the Championship Oil Can Harry's softball team, that won the right to represent San Francisco and the S.F. Community Softball League( Originally called the Gay Community Softball League) in the 2nd ever Gay World Series in New York. and the first gay organized sports league in the country. The name was changed because many of the gay players worked for Fortune 500 companies, And feared if their employers found OUT, they could be fired. .. OUR TEAM WAS ALSO KICKED OUT FOR HAVING TOO MANY NON-GAYS The following is a story I wrote . I also gave the story to the Associated Press, and it was picked up by Walter Cronkit's CBS Evening News and Paul Harvey's ABC Radio Commentary...
and appeared on the www. including my blog before, ( jerrypritikin.blogspot.com and BeyondChron.com

Gay Sports History 101
by Jerry Pritkin‚ Sep. 12‚ 2007


IN THE BEGINNING... I joined the Round-Up softball team in the San Francisco's (Gay) Community Softball League in 1975. It was the 3rd season of the C.S.L. that was the nation's first gay sports association. Many of our players did not know where right field was, and that included the right fielder! I was a 38 year old rookie and 12" softball virgin...

Manager Jay "Golda" Platt roamed S.F. city leagues "recruiting" new players to bolster our team. We picked up some quality players, as did some of the other teams, and the league became competitive. There were new rivalries as more teams joined. The managers were as colorful as the new uniforms and players came in all shapes and sizes. Some teams added cheerleaders...

The pennant races provided fans and fun that were as entertaining as the players. Going to the winning team's bars after the game became a ritual. I became a pitcher and learned to throw knuckle balls that danced in the bay winds.

When the Round-Up's owner discovered his lover making a "squeeze" play on our shortstop, he dropped sponsoring the team. Platt found us a new sponsor for the '77 season, Oil Can Harry's. OCH was the best gay disco bar in the city. The owners supported us with great cheerleaders, loyal fans and post-game parties.

Sports sections began to show up in gay newspapers. I wrote a few columns for the Sentinel, and they printed some of my images. The Badland's Bar on 18th Street wound-up winning the coveted Championship trophy,but not without controversy.

Like many teams including ours, their roster had many non-gay players. When they failed to appear at a banquet in their honor, several teams quit the C.S.L. and formed a league of their own...The S.F. Gay Softball League.

THAT WAS THE SEASON THAT WAS...

In January 1978, I celebrated my 41st birthday. The C.S.L. received an invitation to send their '78 Champs to the 2nd Gay World Series at New York in September. I gave a pre-season party for our returning teammates, and to welcome new players at my apartment.

Tim Sullivan, a good-looking 21-year old rookie asked me if he could try on my uniform...just to see
what it looked like to be an Oiler. When he came out, the guys gave him a standing ovation. I commented "THE SEASON HAS NOT EVEN STARTED AND HE'S ALREADY IN MY PANTS!"

In February, I was named the sports editor for a new gay paper... The Gazette. Our first edition was to coincide with the Opening of the C.S.L. season. Mayor Moscone wrote a welcoming letter for the Gazette and agreed to throw out the first pitch of the season. As luck would have it, OCH was picked to play against a new team, Dave's Baths, in the season's Opener.

THE ROAD TO THE BIG APPLE....

My teammates were a microcosm of the City of San Francisco. We had several Vietnam Vets, 27 year old Tony Suchon, a 4-year Navy vet who served in the Gulf of Tonkin, and George "Hot-Dog" Hill and his roommate Sammy Barnachia, who won a Silver medal in wrestling at the Pan-Am Games, and Dependable Dan Wexler, my neighbor and best friend.

Also City fireman Rich Loos, Banker Gus "Bazooka" Torres, 37-year-old Doctor Allan Chernoff, Veteran gay pitcher, Rennis Woods, 30-year-old House painter "Skip" Schafer, and infielder Scott Kendrick. The last to be added to the roster was "Big" John Stout, another City fireman and long-ball hitter. Bar
manager Ralph Deming replaced "Golda" as the skipper of the club. I was named the team's player representative...plus our amazing cheerleading squad.

Opening day was spectacular... There were over 2,000 fans at Lang Field for the Opener. Mayor Moscone threw batting practice for the Oilers, using my mitt. The opening ceremonies started with Commissioner Mark Brown (a former Arthur Murray dance instructor) reading the CSL preamble, that
stated both gay and straight players were welcome, as long as they respected each other's lifestyles.

League cofounder, Jack "Irene" McGowan, introduced players from Dave's Baths and the Oilers, always adding "one of our own kind" whenever the player was gay. Then, the 17 other teams marched on the field with their players and banners. After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, Mayor Moscone threw out the first pitch, and Oil Can Harry's took the field.

THE SEASON STARTED WITH A BANG!

Dave's leadoff hitter smashed a homer, and my earn-run average was higher than a Goodyear Blimp! I walked the next 2 batters and settled down. The Oiler wound-up winning a lopsided victory 16-1. I quoted Dave's H.R. slugger in the Gazettes premiere edition, "that he almost vomited running around the bases!"

I predicted problems in my column if another mostly non-gay team won the Pennant. I also recommended that the GSL merge with the CSL and have a separated division with the best teams playing each other at the end of the season, and the winner represent S.F. in the Gay World Series... it never happened.

There were many bar fund raisers, collecting over $25,000 to send the CSL's pennant winners to New York. The non-gay players brought their wives, kids and friends to watch and enjoyed going to the gay bars after the games.

During the mid-season break, Comm. Mark Brown flew to Toronto to meet with the commissioners of the other 4 cities taking part in the Gay World Series. They voted to put a 20-80% rule in effect, limiting each team to only 20% non-gay players. Brown abstained in the voting.

When he returned to S.F. the league had an emergency meeting, voting that they were going to send the Championship club to N.Y. no matter what the team's "makeup"! By the season's end, OCH wound up as the Wild-card entry in the play-offs.

The first weekend, many of the team favorites were eliminated and OCH came from behind to beat the Ambush team in the last inning, when slugger Tony Suchon was intentionally walked, loading the bases and pitched to me. I tripled to right field, driving in what turned out to be the tying and winning runs. The oilers were to play the Sutters' Mill Golddiggers for the title the following weekend in
the best out of 3-game series.

FOR ALL THE MARBLES...

It was a hot sunny August afternoon, There was a large crowd and most of them, rooting for the Golddiggers. They were one of the original CSL teams and perennial bridesmaid in the standings, and the majority of their players were gay... Our loyal fans were there, too. For the series opener, OCH's Mgr. Deming chose to start Rennis Woods. He was knocked out early, giving up 12-runs in the first few innings. OCH fought back, but lost 22-17.

After the game, I gave the Oilers a "Win one for the Gipper" speech on the grassy knoll behind 3rd base. I said I was hanging up my spikes after the season and I wanted to go out a winner and go to the Big Apple! To do that, we had to win a double-header on Sunday at Carolina Field.

I pitched the first game on Sunday. My knuckle ball was working and we won 11-0. It was decided I would start the 2nd game, and go as far as I could. We shut the "Diggers" out for the first 4 innings, and Sutter's Mill had the tying runs on base when the game ended 7 to 5 in our favor.

After the final out, I was lifted on to the shoulders of my teammates. The celebration started! First we went to the Castro Street Fair, and then we all went to Oil Can's bar and danced together for hours.

We were going to the Big Apple... but not before playing in the annual charity, Peach-Fuzz (gays-Cops) game, the following week. There were 8,000 fans and, again, my knuckle-ball was working. I gave up only 2 singles and retired 9 in a row, and 7 on 7 pitches in 5 innings, and we won 17-0!

It was my 6th post season win without a loss. Mayor Moscone gave the Oilers a Citation to take to N.Y., that praised the team on its diversity...

OUCH...

After we arrived in New York the Oilers were kicked out of the Gay World Series, for having too many "non-gays" on their roster. I called the Associated Press and they ran the story. It made Walter Cronkite's CBS Evening News and Paul Harvey's ABC Radio Commentary.

After spending a week as tourists, we returned home to a large crowd of well-wishers that greeted us at the S.F. airport. The following morning, a few players were interviewed on Channel 7's A.M. San Francisco...

A few weeks later S.F. was rocked by the Rev. Jim Jones' mass suicides in Jonestown, Guyana. In late
November, the assassinations of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk... Like Chuck Dickens stated...It was the best of times, it was the worst of times almost 30 years ago.

WHERE ARE MY TEAMMATES NOW?

Gus "Bazooka" Torres was voted the CSL's '78 MVP. He is an Investment Broker and 4-time Grandfather. Dan Wexler and his wife adopted a couple of Russian kids. He is a Real Estate Broker in the Bay area. Allen "Doc" Chernoff lives in Irving, Texas and recently won $32,000 on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

The 56-year old Tony Suchon lives in Santa Rosa, Ca. and played many more years in the CSL. The 59-year-old "Skip" Schafer is a property manager in Concord, Ca. and has continuously played and managed for 30 years, and spent 8 years on the Board of the S.F.GSL. He was elected to their Hall of Fame.

Last year, "Skip" and I were united when we played on Bubbies Kosher Pickle Team (A legend in its own brine) in the Annual Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association's Senior Cup Tournament. I won the Award for being the oldest active player.

Jay "Golda" Platt, the person who introduced me to gay sports, died of AIDS in 1990.

1 comment:

karin said...

What an amazing history of our league and the sport!! Thank you for sharing this, and for being a good sportsman in all meanings of the word.

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