Sad news to precede today’s Daily Duce, as yesterday we learned that a recognizable character from the Rogers Centre, and all manner of Toronto sports venues has passed away: Ralphael Platner, aka “Ralph the Program Guy.”
According to Random Jays Stuff, the bespectacled program seller who would also walk the stadium aisles in his familiar shorts, selling flags, foam fingers, and pennants, “missed most of the 2014 Blue Jays season due to a prolonged illness. I found out today that he recently succumbed to the illness at the age of 67.”
Mark Hebscher has some terrific remembrances of the man he knew as “Ralph the Party Crasher” — a moniker that date back to Hebscher’s bar mitzvah, one of many, apparently, that Ralph crashed “for the food” — and who he calls “Toronto’s witness to sports history,” for the fact that Ralph attended thousands upon thousands of games in the city, in addition to many, many concerts, dating back to the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964. “I used to see him at Mosport,” he remarks, illustrating the breadth of what Ralph had seen. “He probably attended/worked 10 thousand events over the years, and made money at every one of them.”
Random Jays Stuff points us to a small 2011 Globe and Mail profile of him that paints him as one of the city’s legendary characters. “His encyclopedic recall of facts and ability to remember certain fans from decades ago have gained him notoriety among those who attend sports events in the city,” they explain. And they give examples:
“Did you know a plane crashed a week after Kennedy was killed? Nobody remembers that,” he says.
On Nov. 29, 1963, Trans-Canada Air Lines flight 831 crashed, flying from Montreal to Toronto, killing all 118 people on board.
“Three days before Kennedy was killed, Donald Summerville, the mayor of Toronto, died of a heart attack. He was playing in a charity hockey game, I think.”
On Nov. 19, 1963, the newly elected mayor did, indeed, die during such a game at George Bell arena.
Mr. Platner also has the great party trick of being able to tell you the day of the week on which your birth fell. He pronounces that May 2, 1969, was a Friday. How did he do that?
“Well, because of Kent State,” he begins modestly. “That was May 4, 1970, so I just worked it out from there.”
Amazing stuff. Must have been a real unique guy to talk to, for those who took the trouble to get to know him.
I must admit that I was not one of those people — not that it would have necessarily been easy, since, as Hebscher puts it, “Ralph was always in a hurry. … I never saw him in a seated position. He was always standing, or walking, or running.” — but he was certainly a familiar part of the ballpark experience. It’s going to be strange to think of him not being there when the Jays return to Rogers Centre next April, and I hope we all take a moment to do just that.
Image via Random Jays Stuff.