At age 13, Mary Lou Palermo made it to her first roller derby as a spectator and immediately fell in love with the sport. At age 15, Palermo became a part of the sport, joining with a team and traveling across the country by train. Palermo was already an accomplished skater as she started out as a street skater long before she ever laid eyes on the roller derby. From there, she was able to apply her craft and athleticism in a sport that was just about to take off.
In a session through New York which included stops at the Polo Grounds and the 23rd Street Armory, television executives began to take notice of the roller derby wave, and in 1946, roller derby became the first sport involving males and females to be broadcast. That’s when Palermo’s career really took off as she captained the New York Chiefs to the first Roller Derby World Series which was played at Madison Square Garden.
Palermo ended up being a 5-time Roller Derby All-Star and was the league.s MVP in 1951. Palermo stayed in the league until 1954 before taking some time off to raise a family. In 1961, Palermo rejoined the roller derby circuit, taking her children along for the bus rides and unforgettable experiences.
Palermo’s success led her to be captain of the Hawaiian Warriors and the Midwest Pioneers. Even today, 40 years since her last roller derby appearance, Palermo still holds the sport close to her heart and regularly attends reunions with as many former teammates and opponents as possible. Mary Lou Palermo brings the sport of roller derby to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.
Palermo was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.