Dr. Alan Barman, one of the founders of Philadelphia’s LGBT softball league, died Sept. 14 after a long battle with multiple myeloma. He was 52.
Barman was one of several pioneering players who helped fuel the early growth of the City of Brotherly Love Softball League in the early 1980s, and remained involved until his death.
Last year, Barman was tapped to be head coach of the Philadelphia East Coast Fusion, CBLSL’s softball team that traveled to Germany for the Gay Games this summer.
Barman and his brother Howie organized tryouts and put together the team, but Barman learned early on that he wouldn’t be able to attend the Games because of his health.
Fusion team member Ryan Merrigan first met Barman during the tryouts and kept in touch with him throughout the team’s preparation for Germany. He said Barman kept a positive attitude despite the medical challenges he faced.
“He was in the hospital off and on for a while, but he’d always call and e-mail and see how things were going,” Merrigan said. “We’d talk when he was in the hospital and he’d just listen to how things were going and always tried to act like nothing was going on and that he was feeling OK.”
CBLSL member Bob Lenahan met Barman about 10 years ago when he joined the league, just about the time Barman was diagnosed with cancer. He agreed that Barman never let his medical problems get him down.
“He always had an upbeat attitude,” Lenahan said. “He still came out to things and supported us. He would even joke that the doctors didn’t give him very long to live, but he didn’t listen to them so he was around for another 10 years. He was a fighter.”
Merrigan said Barman was overjoyed when Fusion garnered the gold medal in Germany.
“He was just ecstatic. The fact that we were able to get everybody together to go was a feat in itself, and then to win the gold medal was amazing, and he was just so happy to hear it.”
During the Gay Games homecoming party Sept. 21, Fusion presented Howie Barman with a jersey and gold medal in honor of his brother.
CBLSL commissioner Jeff Sotland said that, since the league’s inception, Barman served as a player and coach and sponsored several teams.
Sotland said that throughout his decades of involvement with CBLSL, Barman stayed true to the original mission of the league and noted that his countless contributions were also bolstered by the support of his brother, an LGBT ally.
“They were a great duo to support the league, showing that the LGBT community and allies of the community stand side by side,” Sotland said. “Al never lost sight of the purpose of our league and the overriding need to have a place for the LGBT community and its allies to be able to play softball in a safe, supportive and friendly environment.”
Howie said his brother played baseball throughout high school and was accepted onto the team at Cornell University, from which he graduated in 1981 with a degree in biology, although he chose to focus on his studies instead of sports. Barman, a native of Rosedale, N.Y., went on to graduate from the College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1986. Since 1993, Barman worked as a nephrologist with Clinical Renal Associates Ltd. in Chester.
Despite his budding medical career, Howie said his brother could not be distracted from CBLSL and the league’s unique mission.
“He wanted to bring softball to the gay community,” Howie said. “He wanted to give people who didn’t play sports, either because they were gay or felt ostracized or were afraid to play, an opportunity to get involved and to learn how to play the game.”
Howie called his brother “the greatest guy I ever met,” and Lenahan concurred that the entire CBLSL community can learn from Barman’s unwavering dedication to the league and its players.
“He was very influential,” Lenahan said. “He played in all the various divisions within CBLSL, except for the women’s of course. He was very warm and inviting and welcoming to me and to everyone. He was always looking for the league to grow, to get more people. And he promoted it outside the city as well: He played in tournaments, sponsored teams to go to tournaments and worked to bring people in to our tournaments. I think especially for the younger kids playing, he really wanted to foster a sense of community, and he did that.”
A funeral was held Sept. 16 in Media.
Donations can be made in Barman’s name to the Multiple Myleoma Research Foundation by visiting www.themmrf.org. A guestbook has been set up on the site for Barman.
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].