Loretta " Little Iodine" Behrens - Derby Memoirs



Ralph Valladares Tribute

Tribute courtesy of Phil Berrier, Roller Derby Forum

Ralph Valladares

Holder of every important scoring, speed and endurance record in the history of the banked track roller skating sport, Ralphie Valladares; first as a T-Bird skater; then as coach and ultimately Manager during his thirty-eight year tenure with the World Famous Los Angeles Thunderbirds earned the nickname, "The Living Legend".  Ralph died of Cancer at 9:28 PM November 13th.

Born in Guatemala, Central America, young Ralphie came to the United States when he was 12 years old.  His family settled in the Los Angeles area near the world-famous Hollywood Park Race Track.  As a youngster, Ralph, who was less than five feet tall and weighed under 100 lbs., hung around the stable area of the racetrack and caught on as an exercise boy.  His ambition was to become a jockey.  Unfortunately, Ralphie outgrew his ambition.  By the time he was 16 years old, he had become a "giant" of 5 ft. 2 inches and 115 lbs.  Too big to become a jockey but too small for most competitive sports in school, Ralph started patronizing the local roller rinks and soon became a champion on the flat track.

He was invited to try out for the original roller derby team, the Braves, and at the age of 17 signed his first professional contract.  At the end of his rookie year, Ralph became the skating and scoring sensation of Roller Derby.  This tiny Latin skated rings around his heavier and slower opponents.  He kept free from major injuries because the heavyweights of the track simply couldn't catch the diminutive "Guatemalan Flyer".  During the next few years, Ralphie skated all over the US and even in North Africa and Europe where he thrilled crowds everywhere with his polished skating skills.

In 1960 when the Los Angeles Thunderbirds were formed, Ralphie was immediately signed up as the epitome of T-Bird skating excellence.  He has remained with the World Champion T-Birds ever since, popularizing the T-Birds not only nationally in all states of the union but also internationally in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia (particularly in Japan), and equally, nationally popular in Australia.  When asked to name the biggest thrill he has ever had in his skating career, Ralphie shakes his head in dismay and says, "There are too many to count.  BUT I certainly shall never forget the pleasure the entire T-Bird team and I had in working with Raquel Welch in MGM's "Kansas City Bomber" movie.  Nor will any of us T-Birds forget the night of September 15,1972 in Chicago at Comisky Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, when we appeared before 50,118 wild fans.  I also understand they turned away over 1,500 more fans.

And T-Bird fans will never forget the night of November 13,1998.  The night that that their idol...."The Guatemalan Flyer" passed away.  God Bless You Ralphie!


Ralph Valladares

Ralph Valladares



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