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What is, what might have been, and King Ralph

All people are not the same, but I’m thinking most will sometimes look back and wonder what might have been.

All people are not the same, but I’m thinking most will sometimes look back and wonder what might have been.

What could life have been if you had made the other decision instead of the one you choose away back when?

For this senior citizen, there are two that stick out.

As a pitcher with a little talent in junior high school in Edmonton, myself and a friend named Bill Renner formed a four-man fastball club patterned after the late, great Ed Feigner (The King & His Court). And we fared pretty well against club teams in the Alberta Capital.

I pitched, Renner caught and, for the life of me, I can’t remember the other guys who manned first and the rest of the field.

I was just shy of 16 years old when we played a team from McCauley Junior High that was coached by Art Walker, then a defensive lineman with the Edmonton Eskimos and a teacher to make ends meet. He tried to talk me into going to his home state of Florida to play professional fastball, saying that leagues down there had average annual salaries of $30,000 with the stars getting much more.

At that time my father, an upholsterer, was making $90 a week.

The money was tempting for sure. But for a kid who had never been outside of Edmonton’s city limit, it was just too much of a gamble, too much of a risk.

Needless to say I turned Art down, although I did play a few games for his clubs later on.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been.

You think about the missed money, but to get realistic you have to look at the other side too. An athlete on his own, that far from home, with so much free time; a lot could have gone wrong and it’s that part I think about more than the money.

The other time is going to hit a lot closer to home.

While attending a press conference at Currie Barracks in Calgary, a reporter from CFCN Radio and Television approached me with a proposal. I was a reporter with CKXL Radio at the time and he said he was thinking about running as a Liberal candidate in Calgary South in the next federal election and wondered if I wanted to be his campaign manager.

I’d known this young man through the business for maybe a year or two but still responded with this quote: “Ralph, you’re no politician.”

That, of course, was Ralph Klein, the man we lost not all that long ago.

Of course, it would be years later before Ralph scooped his own newsroom by staging a downtown press conference to announce he was running for the mayor job with the City of Calgary, an announcement that was met with a few chuckles throughout the fast-growing city.

But Ralph was serious and he did what he wanted to accomplish, and even more taking that job with surprising ease and then spending the rest of his days, well, other than the last few months, in the public eye.

He was his own man and accomplished a lot more than many would have given him credit for. Over the years we’d meet and have a laugh or two about that day when he made the offer which I rejected in part because there was, and isn’t even today, any security in politics and I was happy having a steady job in radio.

Others with more adventurous ways, and obviously more brains, took Ralph up on his offer and as his old friend and confidant Rod Love would say at the end: “Took them on a good ride.”

Today I look back without regret but sometimes still wonder what King Ralph and I might have teamed up to become.

When Ralph was rudely turfed by the Conservative Party, he chose to end his political life. It coincided with the closing of his favorite watering hole, Calgary’s St. Louis Hotel.

I was privileged to be a part of a final farewell to both, and those attending each got a T-shirt depicting a tuxedo and we called it a Black Tie Farewell. I got that shirt out of a closet and wore it in Ralph’s honor on the day we said our final farewell to an amazing man.

Rest well, old friend.

To lighten things up to finish, I remember well being on several head tables with Ralph and, at one, I told the story about a car salesman offering Ralph a new car as a gift. Ralph said that might be considered unethical. So the salesman said, “I’ll sell it to you for $10.” Ralph replied: “I’ll take two.” We laughed at that one many, many times over the years.