His legacy goes back to the GAA, the Gay Athletic Association, in 1978, when Art Johnston became a board member. The group had about 60 members, but became the the Metropolitan Sports Association ( MSA ) and, ultimately, tthe Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) —which currently has more than 3,000 members who play eight sports that cover 19 sports seasons.
Johnston has, for almost 30 years, been a key part in the gay sports scene—and the same is true for the bar he co-owns, Sidetrack. Art Johnston ( above ) will be one of five inductees into the CMSA Hall of Fame. Photo by Suzanne Kraus.
For his contributions, Johnston and Sidetrack—and three other Chicagoans—are getting inducted into the CMSA Hall of Fame.
This year's class also features Rich Essig, Doug Malm and Bobby Nicholson. The ceremony is set for Sat., March 29, 7 p.m., at Spyners Pub, 4623 N. Western.
'This year's inductees follow the guidelines set up of honoring those individuals/sponsors who have gone above and beyond with their time and effort spent on making sure CMSA was successful and helping the organization to grow,' said CMSA President Marcia Hill, who was inducted in last year's inaugural class.
'Rich and Arthur served on the CMSA board in the 1980s; Doug served on the CMSA board in the 1990s; and Bobby has been here all 30 years as a player, coach, bar owner and umpire. Arthur also was very instrumental in getting CMSA into NAGAAA,' Hill said. 'And Sidetrack has been a ( CMSA ) sponsor for both men's and women's teams for 26 years.'
Johnston's legacy is long tied to softball, but he's also supported—as has Sidetrack—numerous other sports.
Essig is a former board president who has been a key fund-raiser for the organization. He has played softball since 1991.
Malm also has long-standing ties to CMSA softball. From 1997-2002, he was on the Softball Committee and was also an umpire, and instrumental in the annual Senior Cup. From 2002-06, he was the commissioner for softball's Open League, which ballooned to 43 teams. In 2006, Malm was a founding member of the CMSA badminton league. He was a beach volleyball commissioner during the years 2002-05. Malm won the James R. Brody sportsmanship award for softball in 2007.
Nicholson joined GAA in 1980 and, in 1997, became the president and umpire-in-chief. He is the co-owner of Lakeview's North End bar, which sponsors multiple CMSA teams in numerous sports. He won the James R. Brody award in 1995.
Sidetrack has been a launching pad for sporting events as well as social, cultural and political events, said Rob Terranova, CMSA Hall of Fame Committee chairman. 'With the success of the bar, it has been able to basically leverage liquor companies to support the LGBT community, thus helping to raise more than $1 million,' he said.
'All four of the [ individuals ] , plus Sidetrack, have been key to the growth, development and expansion of GAA to MSA to CMSA.'