At age 91, Mets famous broadcaster and Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner passed away on Thursday due to natural causes in his home in Rancho Mirage, California, along side his daughter K.C. Freeman. Although signs showed that Ralph was aging, to Mets fans, hearing Kiner speak about baseball never got old. Many people spoke about their sorrow when they heard the news about Kiner’s death. Those were the people who were fortunate enough to work with or talk to Kiner expressed how joyful and happy he was every single day.
In just 10 seasons in the Majors Leagues, Ralph Kiner posted astounding numbers, finishing his career with 369 home runs. Within those seasons, Kiner had seven straight seasons (1947-1953) where he hit at least 35 home runs. Those seasons were all with the Pirates except for the 1953 season where he was traded to the Chicago Cubs not even midway into the season. From there he played two more seasons with the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians respectively, finally calling it quits after the 1955 season. From 1948 to 1953, Kiner was given All-Star honors for his performances.
Kiner then took an opportunity to broadcast for the Chicago White Sox in 1961. However, when New York brought back a second baseball team to New York, Kiner quickly shifted to Queens where he broadcasted for the Mets with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. On air, people remembered that he wasn’t the absolute best at his job. But his knowledge of the game was beyond brilliant. On air, Kiner would mispronounce names saying things on air that made absolutely no sense like, “The Hall of Fame ceremonies are on the 31st and 32nd of July.”
Or he would state the obvious in the most bizarre way. One time on the broadcast, Kiner said, “The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning.”
By many, these were called “Kinerisms”. If you would like to read more “Kinerisms“, click the hyperlink.
Ralph also hosted a post-game show called “Kiner’s Korner” that began in 1964 after every home game. If you were featured on the show, you knew that you played exceptionally well to be put on the show. In 2010, Mets broadcasting station, SNY.tv replayed some of his classic episodes on their web site to allow people to remember Ralph Kiner’s television show.
During his broadcasting career, Kiner was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy which effected his speech, as he slurred his words. That didn’t effect him or his broadcasting career, however, as he continued to broadcast for over 50 years. His most popular line for homeruns was famously “It is gone! Goodbye!”.
While Kiner was the broadcaster for the Mets, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 getting 273 votes, one more than the minimum required to enter. 1975 was also his 13th and final chance to get into the Hall of Fame. Had he not made the Hall of Fame, the MLB would be missing one of the best power hitters to ever play the game. The numbers he put up were absolutely stellar. While the game was very different while he played in the 1950′s, we still don’t see such consistency that Kiner showed throughout his career at the plate.
Then in 1984, the Mets put Kiner into their franchise Hall of Fame. Three years later, Kiner’s #4 was retired by the Pirates as a way to thank him for his successful contributions to their team during his career.
Although his work load was decreasing, Kiner was still very active in New York with the Mets. In 2002, Shea Stadium’s television booth was named after him. Citi Field’s booth also mirrored the Shea Stadium’s booth with that booth also being named after him.
It was after 2004 where Kiner basically called it quits. While he was listed as a broadcaster for cable TV, Gary Cohen took over as the main announcer in 2005. After that, he would make many appearances during the weekends on home games in the booth where he would spend about an inning talking about the Mets and baseball in general.
Ralph Kiner become a legend for not only the Mets, but for baseball as a whole. One of the best pure power hitters in the game has left behind an incredible legacy and has also given us knowledge about every era in America’s Pastime.
Every weekend while the Mets play at home, we won’t hear Kiner’s voice anymore. But the Mets need to make sure we, as a whole, remember who Ralph Kiner was and what he did to bring in so much joy for Mets fans. Many people are asking for a “Kiner’s Korner” section in left field to remember the icon Kiner was. Some have asked to to put RK on the jersey’s sleeves like they did for Gary Carter. To me, it won’t matter what the Mets do, as long as they make sure he’s remembered and dedicate this season to one of the most beloved person that has ever been apart of the New York Mets.
Ultimately, we need to make sure that Queens will forever and always be Kiner’s Korner.