You could be a Bay Bomber 

The day Jim Fitzpatrick discovered the rough-and-tumble sport of roller derby remains forever ingrained in his memory. It was, after all, a day for the history books.

As thefuneral of Robert Kennedy aired on television sets across America, Fitzpatrick, then 9 and relatively unaware of the significance of the event, searched in vain for a cartoon show to watch. While his quest for Looney Tunes capers came up empty, he stumbled upon what would eventually become his lifelong passion.

"I remember turning to Channel 2 and seeing roller derby for the first time. From that point forward I was hooked," he says of the popular bouts at Kezar Pavilion, which were broadcast regularly by KTVU.

Fitzpatrick was born and raised in San Francisco, and he has since become a roller derby ambassador of sorts. His early credits include jamming for San Francisco’s legendary team the Bay Bombers and traveling the world as a skater for the hybrid sport Roller Superball.

While injuries eventually sidelined the speed demon on wheels, he returned as a referee and even as an author in 2005 with the photo-heavy book "Roller Derby Classics … and more!," to which derby diva Ann Calvello wrote the forward.

Now at age 48, the South San Francisco resident’s mission isn’t so much to get back on the track and dodge elbows to the face, but rather to inspire a new generation of fans and skaters alike to experience the squeal of speeding wheels at Kezar.

As acting general manager of the Bay Bombers, Fitzpatrick invites anyone who isn’t afraid of a few bumps and bruises to attend Saturday’s open tryouts for professional positions on the fabled team prior to the bout against the Brooklyn Red Devils.

"I’m looking for young, extreme skaters that are used to taking a fall. I want people who are dedicated to training and can present themselves to the public in a good way. I grew up watching roller derby and these people became role models to me. Ann Calvello was just about the nicest person you could ever meet and that’s inspiring. I want to present a team of solid players like that," he says.

Many attempts at reviving roller derby have taken place in the past, but Fitzpatrick is confident that the combination of funds, leadership and a new training facility located in Southern California will make the sport a force to be reckoned with again.

"Roller derby is unlike any other sport. Everyone learns how to play soccer, baseball and basketball in school and that’s why roller derby is different," he says. "I wanted to get back in the sport so I could generate new skaters. There are so few people that have the talent for this and if I can play a part in finding them I will."


Professional American Banked Track Roller Derby Tryouts

When: 5 p.m. Saturday; game is at 8 p.m.
Where: Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyon St., San Francisco
Tickets: $10 to $25
Contact: (650) 952-2136

Bring your own skates.

About The Author

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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