SI Vault
Frank Deford
March 03, 1969
"All I want out of it," Joan Weston said, "is to make good money, get out of it in one piece, and years from now when I say I was in the Derby I want people still to know what it is. I want that."
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March 03, 1969

The Roller Derby

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Hein stopped outside the locker room to chat with a uniformed guard. Butler, being assisted and with his head down, came along. Hein eyed him and did not move. Forty yards away, at the scorer's table next to the track, Charlie returned from checking on Butler and, pushing his hair back with his hands, began to sit down to watch the completion of the game.

The next two actions took place simultaneously. Hein stiffened and began a lunge toward Butler, and Charlie whirled and dashed toward Hein. Butler was caught unaware. Hein busted him hard a couple of times. Still crouching, Cliff could only throw up his hands in a feeble defense. Hein was just starting to aim a kick when he caught sight of Charlie. He did not have time to retreat, for Charlie was suddenly upon him, flailing, throwing roundhouse punches and wading in.

Hein managed to draw back a step, but Charlie bulled into him again, just as Butler once more crumpled to the ground. Hein, with sweat pouring off his bald pate, made no motion at offense. He was only trying to save himself from O'Connell's wild blows. He staggered backward a few more steps and pleaded with those who had joined the action to be more efficient in holding Charlie. They held him at last, and Hein backed up against a wall, preparing for a final defense there if it became necessary.

It did not. Charlie stared at him for a while longer, scowling, then told those holding him to let him go. He wheeled and began to march back to the scorer's table, not once looking back. His hair was in complete disarray. His shirttails were all the way out. He tended to his shirt first, tucking it back into his pants as he walked. At the scorer's table he brushed his hair back with his hands, then reached for the comb and began to comb it back into place. He sat down, shaking his head gently. "I don't know why I did that," he said. "I don't know why. I was going to sit down right there. I was just going to sit down, and all of a sudden, I—." He shrugged, and began to look up at the skating that had started again above him.

"Twenty-five in jam time," Ken Kunzelman said.

A fan, hanging onto Jerry Seltzer, said: "Hey, Charlie's gonna get into a lot of fights this year, huh?"

Seltzer said "If he does, Charlie might as well be skating."

One month later Thumper Woodberry was sent to the Northwest Cardinals. Bomber Great Charlie O'Connell came out of a retirement that had lasted seven weeks and began skating five strides once again with the Bay Bombers.

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