Ramiro Corrales’ life is one made for the big screen.
Growing up a humble first-generation Mexican-American kid from the Bay Area, Corrales dreamed of playing professional soccer for his newly nascent hometown club, the San Jose Clash (later renamed the Earthquakes).
Through hard work and determination, he hoped to make the team, become champion, lift trophies and be written into history books.
Corrales did it all and then some. And his story doesn’t seem to be finished either.
He captained his hometown Earthquakes club through its most glorious period, hoisting two MLS Cups, becoming an MLS All-Star and at the end of his career, and was carried off the field atop the shoulders of his teammates during his final game in 2013. Of the original MLS players who were part of the league’s inception in 1996, Corrales was final remaining player, the “last man standing.”
Not content with his glittering career, Corrales returned to the Earthquakes two years after his retirement, when he was asked by to become half of San Jose’s Spanish language play-by-play broadcast alongside celebrated announcer Don Carlos Cesar Rivera (whom El Tecolote profiled in its Aug. 1 issue) for the start of the 2019 season.
“I think this guy is too young, not at an age yet, where he’s realized and can appreciate all that he has accomplished,” Rivera said. “One day his son will look at photos and ask, ‘Dad, you played against Chelsea’s manager [Frank Lampard]?’ He’ll look at his son and say, ‘No, he played against me.’”
Corrales’ collision course with greatness began when his father moved the family from Los Angeles to Sinaloa, Mexico at age eight. It was while in Mexico that Corrales found his calling.
“Growing up, especially since I’m from Mexico, I always wanted to be a professional soccer player,” said Corrales. “That’s every kid’s dream.”
At 15, when his family decided to move back to the United States, he convinced his family to move to Salinas, California so that he could have a better opportunity at doing so.
“It’s funny, I used to cut school to go run on the beach or in the mountains,” Corrales said. “I don’t recommend that.”
His hard work training, however, didn’t go unnoticed and he was entered into Major League Soccer’s inaugural draft.
Although initially drafted by Colombus Crew with the 81st pick on Draft Day 1996, San Jose quickly bought his rights and brought Corrales home to feature for San Jose’s first-ever MLS team. The rest is history, one that Corrales is still writing.
“Ramiro shows this community what is possible through hard work,” Rivera said.
In the modern era of football, one in which players valued at $100 million kiss the crest on the shirt more hyperbolically than out of love or loyalty, the man Earthquakes fans still call ‘El Capitan’ stands out. Not because he achieved so much for his sport, community or club, but because almost 25 years after he first pulled on the San Jose shirt, he continues to set roots and deepen his ties with the Earthquakes community. Now in the announcer’s booth, he hopes his passion converts more Bay Area’s Latinx soccer fans into avid Earthquakes supporters.
He shared that as a player, his friends and family would come out to Earthquakes games and they felt like family affairs every week. Corrales wants to recreate that same atmosphere at Earthquakes’ matches.
In a few years, the San Jose faithful might have another Corrales to cheer for. Ramiro came out of retirement to become player/coach of Santa Cruz Breakers FC so that he could help the growing club and guide his son’s training a bit more closely as 13-year-old Ramiro III works his way through the Breakers youth academy. Ramiro III may follow in his father’s decorated footsteps.
In addition to winning MLS Cups for San Jose in 2001 and 2003, he was a member of the Earthquake squad that earned the Supporter’s Shield (best MLS record) in 2012. As a member of SK Brann, he won the league title in Norway in 2007 and has written himself into the history books on numerous occasions. He’s enshrined in both the Earthquakes and Salinas Valley sports hall of fame, and has been called up to represent the United States at both the international level and at the Olympics, where he played against legends the like of former Barcelona great, Xavi Hernandez.
But of all the accomplishments, that first title stands out.
“I’ll never forget the first one, in 2001,” said Corrales, reliving the moment. “I was still kinda young. That was really special…We beat L.A. in the final.”