The Dream of a Gay Softball League in New York City took roots in 1976 and became a reality in 1977. Spearheaded by Badlands bar owner Chuck Dima and assisted by Rich Diaz, Mike Cary, Fred Howell and others. By placing sign posters on lampposts and in bars in 1976 they were successful in creating a twelve team league for the 1977 season. They called this new league the Metropolitan Community Athletic Association (MCAA).
Although the MCAA consisted of twelve teams (Badlands, Boot Hill, Boots And Saddles, Crossroads, Eagle's Nest, Kelly's, Nickel Bar, Numbers, Ramrod, Spike, Ty's and Wildwood), all of whom were sponsored and supported by NYC Gay Bars, the purpose was primarily to provide a safe environment for gay athletes to play sports. It also provided a way for members of the gay community to meet outside the sexually charged atmosphere of the bars. This initial venture was so successful it spawned additional gay sports leagues such as the volleyball league, the bowling league and a pool league among others. All of these leagues initially played under the MCAA umbrella. However, in 1980 because of financial security reasons, the softball league broke away from this organization and named itself the Big Apple Softball League (BASL) and has continued to operate under that name to this day.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's other cities around the country and Canada had also formed softball leagues. They either joined municipal leagues in their home cities or arranged pick-up games amongst themselves. In 1977 the bar owner of the San Francisco Badlands Bar together with Chuck Dima and other NY bar owners arranged to send the New York Ramrod team to San Francisco to play a three game series in what was called, and what has now become, the first Gay World Series. It also trumpeted the beginning of what is now the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) World Series. Leagues from cities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Milwaukee, Toronto joined together to help form NAGAAA. From this modest beginning NAGAAA has now grown to 680 teams in over 37 leagues across North America and is comprised of over 10,000 men and women.
The BASL has also seen growth from its twelve team 130 - 150 member beginnings in 1977. Today the league has grown to 700 members on over 35 teams. The original MCAA two division structure has now grown to six divisions and includes one women's division. The league has also expanded from playing on one small field at one location to over twelve fields at five different locations.
We recall Fred Howell who once played in the San Francisco league who was instrumental in helping to create the MCAA back in 1976 and 1977. It was his contact with the S.F. Badlands Bar owner that began a connection between New York and San Francisco.
In the early days of the league we had an all-star game with a team from the 6th Precinct in an attempt to foster a better understanding between the Police and the Gay community. This ended in 1984 after about a five year run.
Not only was Chuck Dima instrumental in starting the league, but he also had the support of other bar owners from the Nickel Bar, Eagle's Nest, Spike, Boot Hill and from many of the older players who supported the idea of playing in a gay league. Without this support the league may not have gotten off the ground. In those days the 'older' players we speak of were in the 30-50 age range. Highlights how young the league and players were at the time.
Although the league started with 12 teams, not all the teams had extra players. The league played at JJ Walker field with umpires that were people who volunteered to officiate the games.
Jerry Fitzpatrick was not only a bartender but he also wrote a column for one of the bar gay rags (Top Man) back in the early 1970s. Our Fitzpatrick Division carries his name.
In 1997 the league had a large group of Marchers in the Gay Pride Parade mostly due to the guidance of those same older players who helped start the league.
The BASL is one of only a small number of NAGAAA cities that donates the entire proceeds from their annual softball tournament to an AIDS related charity.