Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hey Yogi... it's over! 38 years ago I played on my first gay softball team... and now it's over.(c) Jerry Pritikin

 This was the only time that Jack"Irene"McGowan,Me in the middle and Mark Brown(sitting) that they were not yelling at one another!
Jack"Irene"McGowan one of the cofounder of the 1st Gay Softball League in the country and controversal manager in the league. That's S.F.City Hall in the background.(c) Jerry Pritikin
I was always into the game and depended on my knuckle ball and control. In the Opener of the 1978 season I gave up one run before 2,000 and ZERO runs before 8,000 fans for the Annual Police/ Gay Charity Game.

Gus Torez,knocking one out of Lang Field. He was the Leagues MVP in '78 and the reason I learned how to pitch... Thank you Gus!
For most of the 21st. Century, I played in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association's Senior Cup softball tournament every September. I played on my first gay team in 1975. It was sponsored by AL Hanken's "Round Up" Bar. He belonged to the S,F. Tavern Guild. Jay Platt was the Manager, and I was a 38 year old rookie playing 12" ball. I started out as a third baseman, until Jay recruited Gus Torrez who also was a 3rd baseman. He was a San Francisco banker with a small child. I remember seeing him at batting practice and knew at once that would have to  find a different position to play.  Jay handed me the ball and said pitch batting practce. It turned out to be a turning point for me. I never played team ball since grammar school. I learned to throw a knuckle ball that danced in the bay winds. Hanken dropped us as our sponsor when he found his lover in the arms of Dr. Jim Halloran, our shortstop. Jay found us a new sponsor. Oil Can Harry's, the best gay disco bar in San Francisco. I had a radio show via the cable Viacom TV news/sports show channel 8. By osmosis I wrote sports/ and free lanced photography for several gay newspapers... and involved with a few start up magazines and newspapers.  I enjoyed the spotlight of pitching. I  was knocked out of only a few games over 4 seasons. I was a good fielding pitcher and had my shares of base hits with a few being extra base hits. 

The 1978 season turned out to be one heck of a time for me and my teammates. Mayor Moscone accepted my invitation to throw out the first pitch in front of 2,000 fans.
Before the game, George pitched batting practice to the Oilers and used my glove. I was the Opening Day Pitcher. When I was introduced,I heard a lot of boo's. This was orchestrated by Jack McGowan,who happened to be handling the mic. McGowan was one of the founding fathers of the league aka "Irene". I had a love to hate relationship with a few associates who were as stubborn as Billy Martin.  We had quite a few non-gay players, so during Irene's introduction ceromony, he would always ad "one of our own kind" when introducing a gay player on our team.  I had a fine over all pitching record going into the season. The 1978 season came with a unique incentive... the Championship team would represent S.F. at the 2nd Gay World Series in N.Y.City. We wound up as the Wild Card at the end of the season. I went 6-0 in the play-offs including a double header wins over the runner up team,the Sutter Mill's Gold Diggers for the Championship. The Oilers were blessed to have teammates from all walks of life,including Vietnam Vets,city firemen,a teacher and a doctor. However when we arrived in the" Big Apple", we were kicked out for having too many straights on our roster! 

In 1979, I played on the first gay senior's team in the nation.  Jack McGowan's FABULOUS 40s. It was the only time Jack respected me when playing on his team! We always had a feud going. The Fabulous 40's turned out to be a really was a good team and we came within a run of representing S.F. at the 3rd. Gay World Series. 

In 1981,I was playing for the MINT, Ron Lezell of the Mint team talked me out of retirement, and we made it to the play offs. I got former MLB player and friend Glenn Burke to strike out swinging on a knuckle ball. I have played for many teams over 30 years. Mostly as a pitcher. However for the past 13 years I played as a catcher. It seems most senior teams are over stocked with pitchers. I was able to get Bubbies Kosher Pickles(A legend in its own brine!) to sponsor several of our teams. The one thing I never did over my softball playing days was manage a team.  I equated that as bad as playing in the game of politics, especially when friends are involved. For over 10 years I played in the Chicago Metropolitan Sport Association's Senior Cup Tournament, winning a Championship, and 2nd place win in the Rocker Division for Bubbies sponsored teams.

I contributed to Bob's Big Bats Division Title in 2011 with some timely hits,a few walks and made some good plays at home plate. However last year was a different story. It rained the first day and we had to play on the wet grass and then on the muddy infield. I had a hit and a walk, and for the first time ever I swung and miss on a pitched ball... not striking out. I also hit into my first double play. A line drive speared by the 1st baseman and he caught the runner off base.

This week, I gave much thought about playing one more time. However at 76... I realize that mishaps happen on the field and there was talk again of rain for this weekend. So I decided to hang up my spikes, not with a bang. At least in my lifetime I got to know what it was like to play on a Championship team several times. I excelled when needed. The best highlight from anyone game that stands out for me was in the 1978 Police / Gay Softball game. The Crowd was over 8,000. Again, I was booed when the P.A. announcer introduced me. I left in the 5th inning,shutting the fuzz out and at one time retired 9 in a row and 7 on 7 pitches. I was looking forward to playing in the Gay World Series. 

In the mean while I played several regular seasons in the CMSA. Since the inception of the Senior Cup I have played for most of their 13 years. I won the OLDEST PLAYER AWARD 4 Times. Friday I decided not to play this year. The possibilities of rain added to my decision. I managed not to see this year's edition. Sadly I did not see many of the old timers that has been part of my September tradition.

I'm putting together a unique photo exhibit in Lakeview for October. I'll post more about that in days to come. I'm still looking for a doc-maker ... 
Gay Bleacher Bum... Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Franciso!(c) Jerry Pritikin

Winning my 3rd of 4 Oldest Active Player Award in the CMSA's Senior Cup Tournament-2011
The Championship Bob's Big Bats-2011 It felt good contributing to the Throphy in the Rocker Divison. Can you find Waldo?

My introduction into the National Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame. I knew quite a few players inducted at this years event. I received a standing ovation after my acceptence speech.

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