Name: Red Berry
Year Inducted: 2010

"Wild" Red Berry

When "Wild" Red Berry wrestled, people watched. And when he spoke, people listened. His career as a championship wrestler and top-flight manager lasted nearly 40 years, and is a testament to perseverance and hard work. Born in 1906 in Conway Springs, Kansas, Ralph L. Berry lived an impoverished childhood and had little schooling; he made it through the seventh grade but quit at the age of 12 to work in a nearby coal mine. In the back of his mind, though, the wiry redhead always entertained visions of being an athlete. "I bet I painted that Pittsburg YMCA twenty times to pay my dues," he recalled in 1955. He started out as a boxer but a pair of broken hands convinced him to switch sports. Berry's greatest acclaim came in California, where smaller, fast-paced wrestlers were the rage in the 1930s and 1940s. No more than 5-8 and 195 pounds, he held the National Wrestling Association light heavyweight crown, based mostly in Hollywood, nine times from 1937 to 1947. What made Berry stand out from the pack, though, was his tendency toward the multisyllabic, as an extended hospital stay in 1947 left him time to contemplate ways to overcome a lack of formal education. He was liable to quote the Bible or Shakespeare, or reach into his "Anthology of Philosophy" and lob a pearl like this: "To develop intrepidity, your resourcefulness, your acumen and perspicacity, you must do it alone and do it yourself." As a manager, he directed The Fabulous Kangaroos in the late 1950s and early 1960s when they were the dominant tag team attraction in wrestling. He still wrestled through 1965, when he was nearly 60, before he retired to his Pittsburg home, where he died of a heart attack in 1973 at 66. As nefarious as he was in the ring, he was uplifting and inspirational outside of it. A few of the locals can still remember when he was Pittsburg parks commissioner, and they still play baseball at Wild Red Berry Field.

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