The gay sports world lost a true legend last weekend when Chuck Dima, known as the "grandfather of gay softball," passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 81. Sam Lehman, commissioner of the Southern New England Friendship Softball League, was one of the first two hear the news:
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.
Dima's impact on the world of gay softball can't be overstated. The Big Apple Softball League in New York City, one of the largest in the world, went so far as to name its top division after the legend. It's because of people like Dima that the Gay Games, the Gay Softball World Series, and gay-sports organizations around the world exist today.
NAGAAA released a statement to Outsports that I hope everyone reads. A man of this stature deserves to be remembered and honored:
When asked what is the legacy of a person where does one start? Does one point to the tangible accomplishments, what they helped to create, what they did for the community and what they helped to nurture? Does one focus on the intangible, their quick smile, their wit or their compassion? Or does one realize that the two are inseparable, and that the only solution is to simply celebrate them in tandem?
With this insight in mind, we honor one of NAGAAA’s founding fathers, Chuck Dima, who passed on earlier this week. Back in the early 1970’s, Chuck had a vision that there needed to be a safe environment where all members of the LGBT Community, regardless of their skill level, would be able to come together and play softball. What ultimately became the Big Apple Softball League is a result of that nurturing vision.
However, Chuck’s story would continue. For both national and international gay softball, Chuck was not just a true visionary, but a visionary with all the drive, motivation and talent to make a dream into a reality. Chuck helped take the rather simple idea of two gay softball teams from San Francisco and New York City playing in a tournament and transformed it into a larger goal, the goal of having an international softball organization that would yearly demonstrate the best of the best in gay softball.
This goal came to fruition with the formation of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA). Today, NAGAAA incorporates 41 individual softball leagues across the United States and Canada and boasts a total LBGT membership of over 10,000 people. It also hosts the largest annual gay sporting event in the world, the Gay Softball World Series (GSWS). We, as its members and as an organization as a whole, are indebted to Chuck and those with whom he worked for providing us with such incredible opportunities.
Chuck’s simple act in 1976 of hosting a bi-coastal softball tournament has led to more intangibles than a person can imagine. How does one thank someone for a vision that has strengthened the LGBT sporting community and the LGBT community as a whole? How does one measure those decades-long enduring friendships with others in cities across North America that, had it not been for softball, may never have formed? One cannot begin to think how diminished they would feel if they were not able to share the joys, the frustrations and the tears even off the softball field with such a far flung group of friends.
Chuck’s legacy of being a constant, a mentor and a friend endures. Though he has passed from this world, he will always remain with us. He will always be there to challenge you to be true to yourself and your friends and to encourage you to develop your teammate’s talents. Above all else, his spirit remains to remind us always to show each other respect both on and off the field. This is his immediate legacy - for it lives in all of us. However, most importantly, as we follow his longstanding advice, we strengthen our organization and continue to foster a safe athletic haven for all of the LGBT community. By taking these actions every time we gather, we honor Chuck’s vision and his memory, and that is the true inheritance that Chuck leaves to gay softball.
Total Sports Mag sat down with Dima in their "lunch with a legend" series. Check out part one of the video here: