One of the owners of the Beachcomber Bar, next door to the Pennant, is a member of OMBAC, so the club has annexed the bar as its unofficial clubhouse.
  • One of the owners of the Beachcomber Bar, next door to the Pennant, is a member of OMBAC, so the club has annexed the bar as its unofficial clubhouse.
  • Image by Robert Burronghs
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Chuck Millenbah, bottle of Bud in hand, calls the OMBAC board meeting to order. Scattered around a small back room in the Pennant Bar in South Mission Beach, the board of directors — seven men ranging in age from their late twenties to midforties, all clutching a Bud, Lite, or rum and Coke — tone down their jabbering long enough for Millenbah, president of the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, to call for the treasurer’s report.

Chuck Millenbah and Mike Curren. In 1958 an apartment house was built on the empty lot above the beach at Redondo Court, and in Mike’s words, “broke up the gang.” No tournaments were held that year.

The treasurer is absent. “Okay,” barks Millenbah, “secretary’s report then.” “Wait!” a couple of board members chortle, “let Pete report on the last general meeting!” It is decided. All shift excitedly in anticipation of the club’s resident wit regaling them with yet another funny story. And Pete Daly does not let them down.

OMBAC 1978. "The problem with OMBAC is they think that if something’s fun with ten people, it’ll be ten times as fun with a hundred people."

“Well, we started out at the Brass Rail with two yellow school-bus loads of OMBAC members,” Daly begins, a rising crest of snickers acknowledging the Brass Rail’s reputation as a gay bar in Hillcrest. The group shatters into fits of laughter when Daly goes into a limp-wristed, Brucey-voiced rendition of his negotiations with Buddy at the bar. “I was going nuts!” howls Daly along with the other men. “Buddy’s in his little disco fag rig; it was hysterical!” The board of directors pauses for a moment to swig beers and savor the vision of about seventy OMBAC members, mostly former jocks gone to seed, dancing with each other. Can you picture it? Daly can hardly contain himself. His red nose has gotten even redder with the excitement, and several board members urge him on.

“Well, I tell Buddy that he’s going to need a lot of rum and coke [the official club drink], and that halfway through the evening he’s gotta yell the club motto: ‘Anybody who can’t tap dance is a cocksucker!’” The room explodes into fits again, they smell the punch line. Daly yells, “And Buddy looks at me and says, ‘Well, I can’t tap dance and I’m a cocksucker.’” A collective shriek crescendos through the room, and the board members pound the tables and stomp their feet and grab their stomachs trying to keep hold of themselves. But there’s no relief in sight. “When Buddy did yell it out,” continues Daly, “all the guys started tap dancing and the fags didn’t know what was happening!” More gales of laughter. “It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen!” cries Millenbah, keeping his laugh rolling. “They were kissing and hugging…” guffaws issue forth…”it made me sick.”

Bob Grenci, the club secretary, picks it up as the laughter fades to tear daubing and chuckles. “I went up and asked where the head was.” Grenci pauses to twist his face and limp hand into the stereotyped imitation of a homosexual, and rolls his head as he says, “ ‘Nsch, well, the men’s is over there and the ladies’ is over there.’ First place I ever been to where they tell you where the ladies head is too!” That brings the room to tears once again, and the charge is bolstered when Grenci adds, “So I went to the ladies head!” The room is brought to an orgasm of laughter, from which everyone tries to recover while Daly details the other four bars the club visited on their outing the week before. It’s a beach ritual that’s been played out every other Monday night for the past fifteen years, these OMBAC board meetings, and maybe even longer than that, for another ten years prior to 1964, the meetings were a little spotty. But who’s counting? Certainly not the OMBAC.

The Old Mission Beach Athletic Club has one great fear: the fear of becoming respectable. The club’s image is inseparable from its territory, the beach; or more specifically, South Mission Beach, a short sliver of sand running south from the roller coaster to the jetty and separating the waters of the Pacific from Mission Bay. The club’s values are beach values; non-organizational, noninstitutional, noncommercial, a kind of laissez faire attitude toward fun and consciousness alteration, and a general disdain for anybody who lives east of Interstate 5. But as the club has grown over the years, things have gotten more complicated. As member Bill Kronberger, one of many attorneys in the 190-man organization explains, “The club is stable, but unstable; it’s not really well organized, but actually it is.” In short, the club has tried to remain the same, but the world has changed.

Things were a lot different down at Old Mission Beach in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Old Mission Beach was that area roughly two or three streets either side of Redondo Court.) There were fewer people around then, so the group of anywhere from twenty to 200 kids who hung out on the beach at the foot of Redondo Court, which is near Saska’s restaurant, were pretty conspicuous. The group was mainly from two high schools, La Jolla High and Hoover High, but Mike Curren says a lot of elementary school kids frequented the place, as he did in the early Forties when he went to Mission Beach Elementary. Club legend maintains that Curren and Ron LaPolice and a few other original members invented the game of over-the-line there in the late Forties, but none of the principals will make that claim. Curren says he used to play the game in elementary school when there weren’t enough people on hand to have a real game of baseball.

The group down on the beach at Old Mission played it a lot when they didn’t have anything else to do, and eventually, Ron LaPolice marked off the boundaries of the playing field, which have become official now. In fact, practically everything having to do with the game has become official. The club has copyrighted the name “over-the-line” and also “over-the-line world championships,” there is an official over-the-line softball, and the club even seeds over-the-line players for its big tournament on Fiesta Island every July. Essentially, over-the-line is a baseball game without bases and with only three players on a team. The batter tries to hit the ball, which is tossed by his own teammates, over a line fifty-five feet away and into the field of opposing players. If they catch the ball, it’s an out; if they don’t, and it doesn’t travel over the head of the deepest player (a home run), it’s a single. Three singles score a run, and so on. The game has gotten so popular that there are about thirty tournaments played every year in San Diego, and it has spread to Canada and other parts of the United States. But OMBAC controls over-the-line, makes and changes the rules, and only OMBAC has the authority and the manpower to put on the world championships.

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