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Gerry Murray (1920–2019), roller derby star

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Murray skated for 22 years and then came out of retirement in her 50s for a few more years of fierce skating

Gerry Murray was a roller derby star who started in the sport’s early days, continued through the height of its popularity, and returned to the sport in her 50s as a grandmother. Murray was a teen when she was recruited to the roller derby world, and she became known as one of the sport’s toughest stars, fast and fierce as she skated the track and jabbed elbows and hips at her opponents. A fan favorite during roller derby’s boom years in the early 1950s, Murray played with the New York Chiefs for years, and among her teammates in the co-ed league were her two husbands and her son.

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Died: August 9, 2019 (Who else died on August 9?)

Details of death: Died in Des Moines, Iowa at the age of 98.

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Career longevity: Murray joined the New York Chiefs in 1938 and skated professionally for 22 years, retiring in 1960. But it turned out she wasn’t done yet. She returned to roller derby in 1975, skating alongside her son and daughter-in-law. As fierce as she had ever been, Murray continued skating into her late 50s. She retired for good after the 1977 season, when she was pushed into a rail, breaking a rib and puncturing a lung — but she continued skating until the season’s end.

Murray on why women loved to skate in roller derby: “Once unleashed on the banked track, the kid wakes up and learns it’s great to bounce people off their feet and onto their heads.”

What people said about her: “Outside the skating oval, Miss Murray is a charming person with disquieting good looks. But on skates, she is a female terror, swishing around the track at thirty-five miles an hour, hipping her opponents and zigzagging recklessly, her red hair, tied in a ribbon, winging along behind her.” —Gay Talese in a 1958 article for the New York Times

“Gerry Murray was the most popular female sports star in the U.S., particularly New York, during the 49-51 period, in 1951 championships, she was top draw selling out MSG seven nights in a row. She was among the first women athletes to get endorsements and Gerry Murray hair ties and bobby pins were sold at leading department stores circa 1950. She was in games on ABC three nights per week in her heyday.” —Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter

Full obituary: New York Times

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