Monday, October 13, 2014
He was known to most as “Ralph the Programme Guy”. If you ever attended a sporting event in Toronto, you know who I’m talking about. He was at nearly every game. He was a fixture selling programmes at Jays games for years. Ditto for the Leafs, Raptors, Argos and thousands of concerts, from The Beatles in 1964 to Black Eyed Peas last year. If it was a big event, Ralph was there. And now, he’s dead at the age of 67.
Trying to calculate the number of events Ralph attended over his 50 years of “hawking” is next to impossible, but let’s try. About 3000 Jays games at the CNE and the Dome since 1977. Hundreds of Maple Leafs games at the Gardens and the A.C.C, starting in the 1960s. Hundreds more Raptors games. 50 or so concerts a year for 50 years….there’s another 2500 events. And if you add other special events, Argos games, Toronto Rock games, indoor soccer, outdoor soccer (Toronto Metros, Toronto Blizzard, Toronto FC) auto racing (I used to see him at Mosport) and heaven knows what else. He probably attended/worked 10 thousand events over the years, and made money at every one of them. He was an entrepreneur before the word was even invented. He was a hustler, too. Had been since his days at Vaughn Road Collegiate and Seneca College.
Ralph was always in a hurry. Whether it was running up and down the stairs at the Dome in his shorts, work boots and black socks or making change for a customer. He didn’t waste time. I introduced my wife to him a few years ago at a Jays game, and he looked me in the eye and said “You went to Newtonbrook (high school) didn’t you?” “Yes”, I replied. Then he looked at my wife and said “You didn’t go to high school in Toronto, did you?” (She didn’t). I also reminded him that, many years ago, he taught me how to say the Alphabet backwards. I can still recite it to this day. And while Ralph should’ve been a huge sports fan, because he attended so many games, he seemed much more interested in film and music. He once confessed to being a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but I’m not sure he told anybody while he was hawking programmes at Leaf games.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Our universal affection for Zim is complicated, beginning as it does with our childlike joy in his bald cannonball head and stumpy bod and jack-o’-lantern grin, but encompassing as well, I think, a deep trust in and respect for his decades of exemplary competitive service, without stardom or contemporary distraction. He was a baseball figure from an earlier time: enchantingly familiar, tough and enduring, stuffed with plays and at-bats and statistics and anecdotes and wisdom accrued from tens of thousands of innings. Baseball stays on and on, unchanged, or so we used to think as kids, and Zimmer, sitting there, seemed to be telling us yes, you’re right, and see you tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
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