Friday, October 21, 2011

William Ralph "Shorty" Price

Shorty Price being escorted from a game in the 1950s.
For decades, William Ralph Price - known to one and all "Shorty" due to his five foot stature - was perhaps the Alabama Crimson Tide football team's most famous, and infamous, fan.

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Price had briefly roomed with future governor George Wallace while attending law school in Tuscaloosa. A student during the high point of Frank Thomas' powerful 1940s Crimson Tide teams, Price's lifelong devotion to Alabama football began when he was elected to the cheerleading squad.

Over the next several decades, he became a staple at Alabama games; dressing in garish outfits, smoking his trademark Tampa Nugget cigars and standing on the in-field wall exhorting the crowd to cheer with him. Price was as likely to be found dancing in the aisles as climbing the goalposts and almost always heavily inebriated.

The antics of the Tide's self-anointed "Head Cheerleader" sometimes ran him afoul with the authorities. On one Third Saturday in October Price was carried away to jail by state troopers after mooning the entire Tennessee side of the stands.

During the 1979 Tennessee game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Price was arrested and later issued a $125 fine. The judge in the case, William Cole, told him "See you next fall" when handing down the sentence.

Aside from his devotion to Crimson Tide football, Price was famed across Alabama for his propensity to enter -and overwhelmingly lose - political races. He ran for Alabama governor no less than four times and even threw his hat in the ring for the Presidency of the United States in 1976.

In his three-decade-long political "career" Price lost no less than 13 elections, never garnering more than 2% of the vote. His only campaign victory was being elected an alternate delegate for the 1952 Democratic convention.

Price died in an automobile accident near Montgomery on Nov. 1, 1980 on the way to attend the Alabama vs. Mississippi State game in Jackson, Miss. The Crimson Tide lost 6-3 that day bringing a 28-game win streak to an end.