Ralph Derr still remembers his first Phillies game. It was 1950 and he was 8 years old. His grandfather needed a buddy to join him at church sponsored game, so Ralph was his special guest. That is when Ralph first fell in love with baseball.
That love for baseball and for the Phillies never faded. It only grew with time and Ralph went to many more games with his grandfather during his childhood. Ralph’s parents raised foster children, so there were always enough kids around to form a team and play a baseball game.
When he turned 16, Ralph joined a fast pitch softball team. For the next 17 years, Ralph played baseball in the Allentown, PA area, always as a catcher, and he won many championships along the way.
Ralph continued to make his way to many Phillies games, including the final game at Connie Mack Stadium, the first and last games at Veterans Stadium, and the first game at Citizens Bank Park. So naturally, Ralph would take his love for the team to the next level by attending the annual Phillies Phestival to Strike Out ALS starting in the 1990s.
Like many in the Philadelphia area, Ralph’s first introduction to ALS was through seeing the Phillies work to raise awareness and money for ALS care and research. He had no way of knowing that, two decades after his first Phestival, he would be diagnosed with ALS as well.
Ralph took great care of his body and health throughout his entire life. He ran 5K and 10K races in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and would travel to Vermont and go cycling on his bike for up to 110 miles. He had a physically demanding job working for a company that built church organs. So when the symptoms of ALS started to worsen and his diagnosis was confirmed, Ralph and his lovig wife Susan were both at a loss for words.
Today, months after being officially diagnosed, Ralph says he hates ALS. But he still looks back on a life that he loves, including his special love for baseball and the Phillies. He has a vast collection of Phillies memorabilia in his house, including autographed bats, jerseys, pictures, baseballs, and even a base from the 2009 World Series.
Ralph says “My wife and I have been together for over 12 years and together we’re going to beat ALS.” Yes Ralph and Susan make a great team, but just like when he as a kid and was surrounded by teammates, in his fight against ALS, he has the Phillies, their fans, and The ALS Association all by his side and ready to be part of his team.
Support the fight against ALS at www.alsphiladelphia.org. Join the 2020 Phillies Phestival to Strike Out ALS on Thursday, May 7. Email Karen@alsphiladelphia.org to become a sponsor today.