P R I T I K I N    S C E N E    # 9

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THE BIRTH OF GAY SPONSORED SOFTBALL 1977 J. Pritikin
"Sun" day afternoon at a gay softball game at Lang Field S.F.

Gay Softball took me out of the my closet in the early 70's and Anita Bryant made sure I would never go back in.

Back in the early 70's, a few guys got together to think of a way for gays to meet socially away from the bars, especially on week-ends. Their efforts resulted in the birth of gay sponsored softball. They used Goodwill Equipment, t-shirts, P-F Flyers and levis and created the (gay) Community Softball League, THE FIRST GAY SPONSORED LEAGUE IN THE COUNTRY. TODAY THERE ARE OVER 40 CITIES WITH GAY SPORTS ASSOCIATIONS. They started with 6 teams comprising employees and customers of those bars. Each year the league added teams and uniforms and with it came a constant stream of controversy. Sport sections became part of the Gay newspapers. The nicknames some of the managers and players had matched their personalities like Cha-Cha!, Irene, Butchy Baseball, Omie(mine). The Championship trophy became a coveted Prize and some of the teams recruited non gay players to help win it. I was 38 years old and never really played on any school or block teams up until then.

I got involved in the league in it's 3rd year. My friend Jay Platt who, like me, was from Chicago, Jewish, and went to the same High School but years apart introduced me to Al Hanken, the Owner of the Round up and End up bars South of Market on 6th Street. Al hired me to do "bar" Public Relations and he helped us put together a team in the CSL; The Round up.

Jay, who was known as "Golda "(like Maier, not the Golda from Fiddler) and also had traits of Shylock and Fagin, was named the manager. He recruited a few players and by our 2nd year we began to gel. However Al dropped the sponsorship of the Round Up when he found his lover making a "squeeze" play with Dr. Jim, our short stop! In '77 Jay got "Oil Can Harry's", the best gay disco in San Francisco, to sponsor us. For me the 1978 season was more than a labor of love. I was the Sports Editor of the Gazette a new gay paper, and I handled their promotions and photography. I told it like it was and I was not liked for naming names and airing out the league's dirty laundry in the paper. The 1978 gay softball season had controversy right off the bat...It had 17 teams, and was open to both gays and straights, so another league was formed for "gays" only, but it was the CSL that got the invitation for the Championship team to represent San Francisco at the Gay World Series in New York in September.

I got Mayor Moscone to throw out the first pitch of the season before 2,000 fans at Lang Field. Before the game he pitched batting practice for the Oilers and used my glove. We beat Dave's Baths 16-1 and I was the winning pitcher that begat the battle for the pennant and the trip to New York.

softball

The Oilers became the Wild card entry, and it came down to a hot August week-end to decide what team would represent S.F. at the Big Apple. We were playing the Sutter's Mill Goldiggers who were the League's Bridemaids several years in a row. The Gold Diggers jumped out to a 10 run lead and hung on to win 22-17 in the first game, I only pitched the last few innings. After the game I gave the team a "Win One for the Gipper" speech, saying I'll probably hang up my spikes (baseball only) at the end of the season. I was walking home from Lang and ran into Harvey Milk and invited him to watch the final championship game on Sunday at Carolina Field. He said "The Castro St. fair was on and that was his baby." And softball was mine.

On August 15, a large crowd was on hand and I pitched the opener (we had to win or it was over). We shut the Gold Diggers out and I pitched the 2nd game We won 7-5 and earned the right to represent S.F. at N.Y. The following week The Oilers beat the Cops in the annual Peach/Fuzz game before 8,000 fans before going to New York, but our team was kicked out of the Gay World series when we got there because we had too many "Straights" on our roster.

In 1979 I played on the first gay seniors team in the country, The fabulous 40's and one of my teammates was the Former US Olympian Dr.Tom Waddell who in 1982 created Gay Games.

Since that time I've had many Last Hurrah seasons including 2005 at 68 years old when I played on the Championship Bubbies (of San francisco) Kosher Pickles team (A legend in its own brine!) when we won the ROCKER Division of the Gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Associations Senior Cup.

During the 80's I was a well known Chicago Cubs fan and tabbed by Hall of Fame announcer Harry Carry as the Cubs #1 fan and known as the Bleacher Preacher. I outed myself again when a Cubs pitcher made anti gay remarks a few years ago. I expect to be playing in this years Senior's Cup for Bubbies.



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This page created June 20, 2006
• Text and Graphics © 2006 • Jerry Pritikin • Chicago •
Permission to copy images is granted only for non-commercial, non-profit use.