Bay Bombers back in action 

There are a lot of reasons why Danielle Rodriguez doesn’t allow her 10-year-old twins, Andres and Xianna, to watch her play roller derby, but the most important may be the preservation of a hard-earned alter-ego.

Rodriguez, you see, becomes "La Taran’tula" on skates, a personality shift that brings out both elbows and expletives.

"They don’t need to see mommy get mad, and while I’m skating, there are some things mommy’s not going to take from anybody," Rodriguez said with a laugh. "But I love it, getting to skate around hitting other people. And it’s way cheaper than therapy."

Rodriguez is one of the members of the San Francisco Bay Bombers, an AmericanRoller Derby League team that was once a national attraction during the sport’s heyday from the 1940s through the 1980s. After a number of lean years, the rejuvenated Bay Bombers return to The City on Saturday at 8 p.m., hosting the Brooklyn Red Devils at Kezar Pavilion in their season opener.

"Back in the glory days, there used to be 10,000 fans out there watching and I was 9 when I first saw it and got hooked right away," first-year San Francisco general manager Jim Fitzpatrick said. "We’re trying to build it back up, get some new talent and pass the sport on."

Fitzpatrick grew up in The City fascinated by the fast-paced antics of Ann "Banana Nose" Calvello and the rest of the Bay Bombers. After graduating from St. Ignatius High School in 1977, he joined the team in 1980 and competed on and off professionally into the early 1990s. Since retiring as a player, he has continued to stay involved with the sport, writing the historical book "Roller Derby Classics ... and More!" in 2003 and teaching athletes the game.

And when he was approached with an offer to run the Bay Bombers, he jumped at it — under one condition.

"I wasn’t going to do it if we weren’t going to do it all the way, 100 percent," Fitzpatrick said. "I know there will be some growing pains, but that’s what got me into it. This isn’t a sport you learn in high school or college, you have to coach it."

Rodriguez is one of the members of the coed Bay Bombers still learning the basics. She had always loved roller-skating while growing up in the Inner Sunset, but got away from it while studying dance in Boston and competing in beauty pageants while living in Texas. Once she returned to San Francisco, she saw an ad in the newspaper that the Bay Bombers were looking for players, and after watching a practice she was determined to become a part of it.

She now goes to practice every Sunday at locations throughout the Bay Area — after church, of course.

"The girls made it look pretty effortless and it’s definitely difficult," Rodriguez said. "I would take some falls at first and get up mumbling. But I can’t say enough good things about it."

And in a sport sometimes known more for its theatrics than strict competitiveness, Rodriguez has a ready-made response for anyone who questions roller derby’s integrity.

"It’s as real as it gets," she said. "And if you don’t believe me, why don’t you come out and try it?"

American Roller Derby League

WHO: San Francisco Bay Bombers vs. Brooklyn Red Devils

WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m., Kezar Pavilion

TICKETS: $10-$20 advance, $20-$25 at the door (adults); children $5 advance, $10 at the door

MORE INFO: (510) 636-9300 or

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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