Chuck Dima, Gay Softball Pioneer, Dies at 81


Chuck Dima, who founded the Big Apple Softball League and is one of the earliest to promote the sport among gay men in the U.S., has died after a battle with cancer.

Said Sam Lehman, commissioner of the Southern New England Friendship Softball League, via Outsports:

"Chuck was often called the grandfather of gay softball; he was widely credited for being one of the founders of gay softball in the US. Chuck owned a bar in New York City and was constantly being asked to play softball with a group of gay friends; this led to the Big Apple Softball League. Chuck was born in 1929 and was a pioneer in the world of gay sports, we all have him to thank for our Sunday afternoon games."

A Facebook fan page, (from which I've borrowed the above photo, in which Dima is pictured third from the left) has been started in Dima's memory.


  1. will says

    I’m not sure I like the idea of “gay sports” (at least not in 2011). It promotes isolationism. We have gay parades, gay restaurants, gay ghettos, gay bookstores (most now closing)… These may have served us 40 years ago, but the culture has changed. We need gay players to come out in professional sports (and be accepted as part of the whole). We need inclusiveness and not a gay apartheid. I LOVE the idea of gay friends getting together & enjoying a bar-b-que and sports at the local park, but the idea of Gay Softball or Gay Games is an idea of a bygone era.

  2. Bammer47 says

    What bar did Chuck Dima own?

    While I agree with Will that we need gay players to come out in professional sports (as has happened at an accelerating pace in the past 6 weeks), I support the continued existence of gay sports leagues & teams. Many gays didn’t participate in the sports culture growing up and were intimidated by their peers for a perceived lack of athletic ability. Gay leagues allow these individuals to explore sports without having to contend with the testosterone-infueled competitiveness they remember from growing up and which can still manifest itself in mainstream sports organizations.

  3. says

    I played softball in the San Francisco Gay Community Softball League,the first gay sponsored league in the USA back in 1973. They began with 6 teams, and each year expanded to more teams. The Championship Trophy was a coveted prize to display in the winning team’s home bar. Early on, there was inclusion of non-gay players and was part of our bi-laws.

    In 1978, I pitched for and was player rep. for the Oil Can Harry’s Oilers. That year there was an incentive, that the Championship team would represent S.F. in the Gay World Series at New York. On my team there were non-gay players who were Vietnam Vets,members of Fortune 500 companies,a couple of City Firemen, a doctor and a teacher. Those players brought their families,children and even their parents to watch our games. Our League was one of the best competitive leagues in the city. After a long season, the Oiler’s won the right to represent S.F. in the Big Apple. However, when we got there, we were kicked OUT for having too many straights on our roster! During the season, rules were changed for a quota system to be put in place. But in sports, rules do not change after a season starts.This was the time of Anita Bryant and Calif. State Senator John Briggs, who put an initiative on the ballot to ban gay teachers in or out of their closet to teach. With the help of non-gays and support from Governor Reagan and President Carter, the voters sent it to defeat.

    Mayor Moscone gave our team a Citation praising us for our Great Diversity, that truly represented the city of San Francisco.
    I agree with Will, and do not believe gay-sports should be exclusively for gays.
    Yet, just 2 years ago, another team from S.F.
    was banned from the Gay World series for exceeding the 20%quota.

    This is the 21 century,we are still fighting for equal rights, not quotas. WE made progress only because so many non-gays joined us in our fight. Being gay does not make you a better athlete,politician,teacher or hairdresser. I agree with Will, that when it comes to sports… good sportsmanship should prevail. It’s time to stamp OUT homophobes and hetero-phobes and just play ball!

  4. David Jarnes says

    I have to disagree with the comment from Will saying there is no longer a need for gay sports leagues.I come from Massachusetts and was legally wedded to my partner in 2004. Most northeastern states have legal protections for gay people. However,in the majority of states in this country it is still perfectly permissable to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or evict someone from an apartment or deny credit for the same reason. Many people who participate in the gay softball world series live in states where if they were outed live with the real threat of having their lives ruined for who they are. More and more straight people are joining gay leagues. I have supported this position for years of inclusion.

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