| In the movie, Rooney's team is called Bears in one scene, but if you look closely in the background you will see the scoreboard which lists the real reams correctly as Europe and America (the only two teams in Roller Speedway). Speedway referee Eddie O'Hara and trackside announcer Ed Begley, portray themselves. Mr. Begley also did some announcing with the National Roller Derby League, along with Ken Nydell, when Roller Derby was on the ABC network sometime in 1951. Unfortunately there are no games of him announcing the Roller Speedway (other than in the movie) as no Roller Speedway games were ever televised, however there is a few seconds of newsreel footage (infact it was used in the recent documentary: RollerJam: Roller Derby Reborn). The program you see in The Fireball is the one that was sold at the San Diego games. The games themselves were held at the Balboa Park Federal Building.
| The International Roller Speedway, at the end of World War II, competed in London's Harringay Arena, the 21,000 seat palais de Sport in Paris, Brussels famous sports palace, the Palazzo Dello Sport in Milan, Italy, and the Paseo De Susana in Agana, Guam and in Manila. In London the Roller Speedway drew full houses at the Harringay Arena nightly until the sport caught on, then one night brought a turnaway of 12,000 people.
In Guam the Roller Speedway games were held in an airplane hanger. The engagement was sponsored by the US Forces and the crowds were usually greater than the seating capacity but they got them in.
The game itself was similiar to Roller Derby but there were some variations. The International Roller Speedway was raced for an eleven day period between two teams, America (blue) and Europe (red) and was decided on a point basis. In Roller Speedway a jammer was called a "Sprint skater" with a jam being called a "Sprint". Points were scored in the same manner as in Roller Derby, by lapping an opponent. However, the sprint was called off in a different manner. In Roller Speedway a sprint skater who scored indicated that he had scored by raising his arms over his head (as in the movie). As soon as he raised his arms the points were awarded. However, if a sprint skater, after lapping an opponent failed to raise his arms immediately, he could lose the points if the opponents that he had passed overtook him again. Points could also be scored in what was called a "Pursuit Race". A pursuit race was between two teams but only in the men's field. One skater from each team started on opposite sides of the track and relays could be made as the skaters wished. The object of the race was to overhaul and tough an opposing skater thus scoring three points.
They also had races called "Primes" which were similiar to match taces. A prime was a special event for two or any number of skaters. The race was sponsored by a member of the audience who offered a set sum of money and nominated reasonable conditions of his own for the event. Example: Mr. X offered a set amount for five laps between two girls, naming the girls. There were stewards available to take the instructions, collect the money and give a reciept and they then wrote out the conditions and messages for transmission over the public address system. Another event similiar to an early part of the Derby game was the "Open House". This race took place every evening before half time and before the close of the nights racing. The open house was timed for 5 minutes and both teams, boys and girls,must be on the track together in relays. The girls started the race and alternated with their male partners at intervals throughout the running of the open house, the winning partnership scoring three points for their team.
It's unclear as to why this league closed, although I heard it might have been for financial reasons or perhaps because the National Roller Derby League was preparing for it's invasion of Europe in 1953. During all its years of operation as either Roller Catch or Roller Speedway no league championships were ever held. It is known that after Roller Speedway, Bert Friedlob had a wooden banked track constructed at the Rose Bowl for midget auto racing. While the Fireball himself (Eddie Poore) never skated with the NRDL, he quit his skating career to continue his education, many Roller Speedway skaters did return to skating with the Roller Derby league. Some infact returned to Europe with the NRDL with their European tour in 1953.
One does wonder why this league was never on television (atleast in Europe) as from what I can tell, they always fielded strong line ups on both teams. It would have been interesting to see games where an American team was considered the "bad guys". Or better yet a chance to see Ann Calvello skating in here rookie season.
|Right top and bottom: Program and ticket from the Syracuse, New York series.
Below: Program from the San Diego, California series, where the movie THE FIREBALL was filmed.
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