Roller Derby turns 80

Roller Derby turns 80
Roller Derby turns 80

Roller Derby turns 80

It’s a wonderful piece of Chicago lore: In 1935, a guy name Leo Seltzer is sitting at a table with a bunch of guys at a restaurant name Ricketts at Chicago and Rush. He mentioned an article he read that said over 90 percent of the country has tried rollerskating. One thing leads to another, and he draws up plans for a sport that combines roller skating with then-popular week-long bicycle races. Later that year, he stages his first Transcontinental Roller Derby at the Chicago Coliseum. 25 two-person co-ed teams skate 3,000 miles — the distance from New York to LA — on a banked, oval, wooden track. At some point soon after (nobody quite knows exactly when) the great sports and short-story writer Damon Runyon mentioned that when contestants occasionally collided or fell, it could be a thrilling sight, and that Seltzer should turn it into a contact sport. Seltzer wanted to keep things legit, but he tried it out, audiences went nuts, and the rest is history. Today marks the 80th anniversary of that first Roller Derby, so we’re joined by Joan McDonald and Laura Hennigan ,two players in Chicago’s Roller Derby league, the Chicago Outfit.(Flickr/gt8073a)