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History of the Broadway Show League

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 Actors Fund, established a more formal league with several associates that would play on Thursday afternoons and called it the Broadway Show League.

For the last 55 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. Many of the best known stars from the stage, films and television have played in the league at one time, as well as thousands of folks from behind the stage and in the "back of the house."

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 or 10 gane regular season 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 is typically the home 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 ULTRA 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 Ultra 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.

Written By Dan Landon, Commissioner, 1998 – 2003, updated by Ted Smits, Manager, The Actors Fund Team.


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