The Broadway Show League is still going strong. Some of the games are played for charity.
About The Show League
Written by Dan Landon, Commissioner 1998-2003
In the early 1950's the casts and crews of Broadway shows got into the habit of walking up to Central Park on Wednesdays for informal picnics and softball games before they returned to the Theatre for the evening performance.
In early 1955, John Effrat, an employee of the Actor's Fund, established a more formal league with several associates that would play on Thursday afternoons and called it the Broadway Show League. SEE STORY LINK.
For the last 50 summer seasons the League has played on Thursday afternoons on the Hecksher Fields in Central Park which lie just inside the park at Central Park West and 63rd Street.
The League is comprised of groups of people who work on Broadway and Off Broadway shows, as well as Union teams and Theatrical organizations.
The League constantly features celebrities that are currently on the boards in shows, as well as the members of the cast, crews and musicians that work on the shows.
The League usually plays a 9 game/10 team schedule, followed by playoffs to determine the champions in various categories, as well as special games for charity, All Stars and Old Timers.
The League is co-ed, two women must bat and play the field at all times, and is an embedded part of the tradition of Central Park and the New York Theatre.
The 11:30 division has always been reserved for new shows with Thursday afternoon rehearsal requirements, and opening nights that intertwined with the beginning of the season, and Tony Night conflicts. This division has typically had a slight competitive handicap against longer running shows with more veteran squads in the next division.
The 1:30 division, which used to be dominated by the likes of Jujamcyn and Actors Equity, has become the crown jewel of long running shows, who, over time, became very strong in fundamentals of the game and hence, much more competitive. The 1:30 division winner has become the favorite in trophy contention.
The 3:30 division, includes teams that have a history together. Show teams used to play at 3:30, but now it is dominated by veteran teams whose players belong to unions and theatre organizations, and many have previous organized baseball experience. However, many of these players work side by side with the rest of us in the theatres on a daily basis.
In 2001, the League entered into an agreement through LIVE BROADWAY, to be sponsored by MICHELOB LITE BEER and ANHEUSER BUSCH. The three year agreement calls for players to wear a joint Show League/Michelob Lite logo on their uniforms, as well as banners hung with the same logo at each field during League play. In return, Michelob Lite generously donates $50,000 to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids on behalf of the Broadway Show League. Also the League is granted some expense money, and funds that help cover the Pre and Post Season parties that team members have grown accustomed to. In 2004, the agreement was extended another five years.
IF YOU HAVEN'T CONVINCED EVERYONE IN YOUR THEATRE WHY THEY SHOULD SUPPORT THE TEAM, TELL THEM TO READ THIS STORY.
This article is taken from a Playbill from Nureyev and Friends at the Gershwin Theatre, 1984.
The Author is not known at this time, but the column is titled, "Notes from The League, The Broadway Show League".
" The Broadway Show League has now been in existence long enough to schedule an Old Timers Day during the regular season, and about 40 players got out their gloves for the occasion on June 28. The actor Jack Knight flew in from Los Angeles to be M.C. and present Frances Lewin, who has been the unpaid, devoted Commissioner of the League for 19 years, with an inscribed trophy.
In fact, the Broadway Show League this season is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Founded by John Effrat, the energetic stage manager who used to organize Broadway's annual talent shows, too, the League was established " to provide an opportunity for companies playing on Broadway to engage in healthful outdoor physical activity." In other words, softball.
Some 20 teams report every Thursday during the season to the five available diamonds near the carousel at the south end of Central Park, wearing the tee-shirts of their shows. There is a noon division and a two o'clock division and the two meet in playoffs that occupy the last four weeks of the season, which ends in mid August.
If the show doesn't have enough enthusiasts to field a team, two shows can combine into a hybrid, such as The Real Thing/Sunday in the Park With George. The entry fee is $175 to cover permits and other expenses. All scheduling and arrangements are handled by Fran Lewin.
At the request of Actors Equity, she took over from John Effrat when he died in 1965. She had no direct connection with the theatre besides being an ardent first nighter (balcony seats) for 20 years and having an uncle who was David Belasco's press agent. A baseball enthusiast as well, she was Effrat's gofer. Out of her years as Commissioner she picks three favorite players, all for being funny, talented, and serious about the game: Woody Allen, George C. Scott, and Merv Griffin.
Scott, a pitcher for the Negro Actors Fund, endeared himself to the Commissioner when he turned down an Oscar saying the only award he cared about was the MVP of the Broadway Show League, which he won when Effrat was Commissioner.
Fran Lewin, an ebullient commissioner, is candid about League problems ---- over-professionalism being one --- and frank to state her goals. In the past, there have been too many non-Broadway, non-show teams, including one from television broadcasting. Her goal for the League is to confine it to Broadway ( and Off-Broadway ) shows and to see that women get to play on every team.
These are laudable goals, which we in The League of New York Theatres and Producers support, but that they may be difficult in achievement was expressed in a remark by one of the League's directors: " It took 30 years to achive this chaos. It can't be undone in one season."
The Commissioner's Cup Champions Match-up was created in honor of the late Don Koehler, who, as the long time Commissioner of the Broadway Show League, did all that he could to maintain the Broadway Show League as ONE League. While painfully aware that veteran teams were far superior to the ever-changing make up of Show teams that opened and closed On and Off Broadway, Don, as Fran Lewin and John Effratt before him, remained true to the spirit of this League.
22 June 1958, New York Times, pg. X3:
"As if that weren't enough," Miss Mitchell moaned, "I'm now worrying about off-stage injuries. The kids have begun to play baseball on Thursday afternoons with the Broadway Show League. Since the season started we've had a couple of spiked legs and broken fingers."
17 August 1987, New York Times, "From Lawyers to Cabbies, Glory Is Found in Softball" by Sam Howe Verhovek, pg. B1:
"Sometimes, you just try too hard," said Tom Kelly, the production stage manager of "I'm Not Rappaport," after flying out to left field, with the tying run on first base, to end the title game of the Broadway Show League. The cast and crew of "42d Street" took their first championship last week.