Ralph Kiner

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Ralph Kiner
RalphKiner1953bowman.jpg
Left fielder
Born: (1922-10-27) October 27, 1922 (age 91)
Santa Rita, New Mexico
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
April 12, 1946 for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1955 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average.279
Home runs369
Runs batted in1,105
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Induction1975
Vote75.41% (thirteenth ballot)
 
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Ralph Kiner
RalphKiner1953bowman.jpg
Left fielder
Born: (1922-10-27) October 27, 1922 (age 91)
Santa Rita, New Mexico
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
April 12, 1946 for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1955 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average.279
Home runs369
Runs batted in1,105
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Induction1975
Vote75.41% (thirteenth ballot)

Ralph McPherran Kiner (born October 27, 1922) is an American former Major League Baseball player and has been an announcer for the New York Mets since the team's inception. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner's tremendous slugging outpaced nearly all of his National League contemporaries between the years 1946 and 1954. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

Early life[edit]

Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, and raised in Alhambra, California. He is of Pennsylvania Dutch and Scots-Irish ancestry.[1] Kiner served as a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II.[2]

Playing career[edit]

Kiner made his major league debut on April 12, 1946, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished the season with 23 home runs, but 109 strikeouts. After the season, the Pirates convinced future Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg not to retire. Greenberg gave Kiner hours of instruction, and in 1947, Kiner led the major leagues with 51 home runs while striking out less than 100 times.[1] Many of Kiner's homers were hit into a shortened left-field and left-center-field porch at Forbes Field (originally built for Greenberg and known in the press as "Greenberg Gardens"); the porch was retained for Kiner and redubbed "Kiner's Korner".[3] Kiner would later use "Kiner's Korner" as the title of his post-game TV show in New York.[4]

In 1949 Kiner topped his 1947 total with 54 home runs, falling just two short of Hack Wilson's then-National League record. It was the highest total in the major leagues from 1939 to 1960, and the highest National League total from 1931 to 1997. It made Kiner the first National League player with two fifty-plus seasons. Kiner also matched his peak of 127 RBIs. From 1947 to 1951, Kiner topped 40 home runs and 100 RBIs each season. Through 2011 he was one of seven major leaguers to have had at least four 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in their first five years, along with Chuck Klein, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Ryan Braun.[5][6]

His string of seasons leading the league in home runs reached seven in 1952, when he hit 37. This also was the last of a record six consecutive seasons in which he led Major League Baseball in home runs, all under the guidance of manager Billy Meyer and Pirate great Honus Wagner. He was selected to participate in the All-Star Game in six straight seasons, 1948 to 1953.[7] He holds (by himself) the major league record of eight home runs in four consecutive multi-homer games, a mark that he set in September 1947.

A quote variously attributed to Kiner himself, as well as to teammates talking about Kiner, was "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords."[8] Footage of Kiner hitting a homer in Forbes Field can be seen in the 1951 film "Angels in the Outfield.[9]

On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten-player trade. This was largely due to continued salary disputes with Pirate general manager Branch Rickey, who reportedly told Kiner, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

Kiner played the rest of 1953 and all of 1954 with the Cubs, finishing his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1955. A back injury forced his retirement at the age of 32, with 369 home runs, 1019 runs batted in and a .279 lifetime batting average.

Kiner was not known for speed. In contrast to radio's "Quiz Kids" or the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies "Whiz Kids", according to Chicago columnist Mike Royko, the 1950s Cubs had an outfield "that was so slow they were known as the Quicksand Kids." Hank Sauer played left field, Frank Baumholtz played center field, and Kiner split his time among left, center and right field.[10]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Kiner throws out a ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field, 2011.

In 1961, Kiner entered the broadcast booth for the Chicago White Sox. The following year, Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy began broadcasting the games of the expansion New York Mets on WOR-TV in New York. The trio rotated announcing duties. Kiner also hosted a post-game show known as "Kiner's Korner" on WOR-TV. Nationally, he helped call the Mets' appearance in the 1969 World Series for NBC Radio.

Kiner was known for his occasional malapropisms, usually connected with getting people's names wrong, such as calling broadcasting partner Tim McCarver as "Tim MacArthur" and calling Gary Carter "Gary Cooper". He even once called himself "Ralph Korner".[11]

Despite a bout with Bell's palsy, which left him with slightly slurred speech,[12] Kiner is still broadcasting, entering his 52nd year of doing Mets broadcasts as of the start of the 2013 baseball season, though only as an occasional guest analyst.[13] He is the only broadcaster to survive all of the Mets history; Nelson had left the Mets for the San Francisco Giants in 1979, and Murphy retired in 2003. (Nelson died in 1995 and Murphy in 2004.) Kiner's tenure with the Mets is the third-longest for an active broadcaster with a single team, trailing only those of Los Angeles Dodgers announcers Vin Scully (1950–present) and Jaime Jarrín (1959–present). His traditional home run call -- "It is gone, goodbye" or "That ball is gone, goodbye"—is a signature phrase in baseball.

Kiner appears occasionally on SportsNet New York (SNY) and WPIX, which currently televise Mets games. During these visits (usually once a week), regular announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling make room for Kiner as he shares stories of old-time baseball, as well as the current state of the game. As of the 2013 season, he is the oldest active announcer in Major League Baseball and has had the third-longest tenure with a single team (behind Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin).

Legacy[edit]

Pirates Ralph Kiner.png
Ralph Kiner's number 4 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987.
A statue of Kiner at Almansor Park in his boyhood town of Alhambra, California.

Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.[14] Kiner had garnered 273 votes by the Baseball Writers Association, one more than the minimum required for election. It was in his final year of eligibility (his 13th, as no vote was held in 1963 and 1965), and it was the closest call possible for any player elected by the BBWAA. (He would have had a chance later with the Veteran's Committee had he not been elected by the BBWAA). Kiner was also the only player voted in that year.[15][16]

Kiner was also elected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.[17]

The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his uniform number 4 in 1987.[18]

The Sporting News placed him at number 90 on its 1999 list of "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players,[19] and he was one of the 100 finalists for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team that year. The Mets honored him with an on-field ceremony on "Ralph Kiner Night" at Shea Stadium on Saturday, July 14, 2007. On that night, fans were given photos of Kiner. Tom Seaver was present, giving a commemorative speech recalling Kiner's legacy. Other guests of note were Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, and broadcaster Ernie Harwell. As a present from the Mets, Kiner received a cruise of his choice.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Baseball Digest, 1948, by Charles J. Doyle of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph.
  2. ^ Baseball Biography Project page on Kiner
  3. ^ Ritter, Lawrence (1992). Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields. Penguin USA. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-14-023422-5. 
  4. ^ Ralph Kiner Quotes. Baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Ralph Kiner Statistics. Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  8. ^ The Baseball Biography Project. Bioproj.Sabr.Org. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  9. ^ http://www.amazon.com/review/R3GOFC9HILF50C
  10. ^ One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, University of Chicago, 1999, p.29-31
  11. ^ Taaffe, William (May 20, 1985). "Legends Of The Err Waves". Sports Illustrated. 
  12. ^ Sandomir, Richard (March 12, 1999). "Kiner Signs A 2-Year Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  13. ^ "Mets Broadcasters". MLB.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  14. ^ National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Famer detail. Baseballhalloffame.org (1922-10-27). Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  15. ^ http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/enterworkflow.do?flowId=playerDetails.playerDetails&searchType=sort
  16. ^ National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Fame Vote Totals. Baseballhalloffame.org. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  17. ^ Mets Hall of Fame | mets.com: History. Newyork.mets.mlb.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  18. ^ Pirates Retired Numbers | pirates.com: History. Pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
  19. ^ http://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/lisn100.shtml
  20. ^ Heyman, Brian (2007-07-15). "Kiner honored before Mets game". The Journal News. 

External links[edit]