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Ralph Kiner: 1922-2014

Feb 6, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

Ralph Kiner Getty Getty Images

Sad news to pass along this afternoon, as Hall of Fame outfielder and broadcasting legend Ralph Kiner has passed away. He was 91 years old.

A feared slugger, Kiner had a storied and brief playing career, compiling a .279/.398/.548 batting line and 369 home runs over 10 seasons between the Pirates, Cubs, and Indians. A six-time All-Star, he either led or tied for the National League lead in home runs for each of his first seven seasons (1946-1952) in the majors. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Back injuries forced Kiner into early retirement at 32 years old, but he soon created a whole new legion of fans as a broadcaster. While he began his broadcasting career in 1961 with the White Sox, he’s best known as one of the voices of the Mets. He was there at the inception of the franchise in 1962 along with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy and became an institution, beloved for his wit, storytelling ability, and occasional flubs. His “Kiner’s Korner” post-game show on WOR-TV was iconic and the site of many classic moments.

Kiner was a big part of my fan experience as a child and it was still a treat to see him stop by the SNY booth in recent years. While he was getting older, he was just as sharp as ever. He’ll be dearly missed.

Here’s a statement from Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon:

“Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history — an original Met and extraordinary gentleman. After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph became a treasured broadcasting icon for more than half a century. His knowledge of the game, wit, and charm entertained generations of Mets fans. Like his stories, he was one of a kind. We send our deepest condolences to Ralph’s five children and 12 grandchildren. Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats.”

  1. chill1184 - Feb 6, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    RIP Ralph, you will be missed. I grew up listening to you in the 90s you were great then and still great when you stopped in the Mets booth in these last few years. God speed. Mets and Pirates fans will miss

  2. stex52 - Feb 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Can’t be too sad. The man had a great life, passed at age 91, and just a better-than-average eulogy written to him right here. I should do so well.

    Requiecsat in Pace, Ralph, with our memories. You done good.

  3. roadtrip3500 - Feb 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    One thing you can say for the Mets – no matter how bad the team, they have had some of the best broadcasters of all time. I’m sure Bob Murphy is waiting for him with that big bold Irish “Hello, my friend!” in that broadcast booth in the sky.

  4. nygf - Feb 6, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    One of the best. He’s gonna get a lot of autograph requests up there.

    R.I.P. good sir.

  5. shawndc04 - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    I enjoyed listening to him broadcast Mets games growing up; he seemed like a really nice guy. There is a story that when he was playing a reporter asked him why he held the bat down at the end instead of shortening up on occasion for better bat control. Ralph’s response: “Son, Cadillacs are at the end of the bat.”

    • dohpey28 - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      His famous quote was “single hitters drive fords, homerun hitters drive cadillacs”

  6. barrywhererufrom - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    As a lifelong New York Yankees fan I would always take time out to watch the Mets too. Ralph was part of the fabric of New York baseball. Watching Kiner’s Korner was a special moment for me. His knowledge of the game was incredible. Loved the stories of Hank Greenberg and Ralph’s playing days with the Pirates. Ralph was also part of the greatest generation serving in the military in WW II. His greatness as a ballplayer was homerun hitting prowess. As a player and broadcaster he exeled. He will be missed by some many fans in New York. RIP Ralph thanks for the memories!

  7. butchhuskey - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Even with increasingly slurred speech during his later years, Ralph was a welcome guest in the Mets booth on the occasional Sunday day game. He retained that quick wit, warm personality, and ability to tell colorful stories even when his age advanced.

    As sad as his passing is, we should remember that Ralph lived a long and happy life that few could even dream about. He was a Hall of Fame player, a respected announcer, and a gentleman through and through. Not to mention that he once went on a date with Elizabeth Taylor in her prime! How many can say that?

    Rest in peace, Ralph. Hopefully you carve out a little “korner” of heaven where you can relax with baseball greats of yore.

    • xdj511 - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      I seem to recall a Mets broadcast where they put up a picture of him beside Marilyn Monroe as well.

      • Old Gator - Feb 6, 2014 at 10:45 PM

        Yep, he squired her about, too.

        Quite a life. Great announcer, funny guy. Great ballplayer. RIP.

      • buddaley - Feb 7, 2014 at 5:41 AM

        He also dated Janet Leigh for a while-not just once-and said that, at the time, he thought it might get serious.

  8. sdelmonte - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Not much I can add other than that he was part of my life from the moment I discovered baseball on TV. He will be missed by Metsland.

  9. natstowngreg - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Ralph was before my time as a young Pirates fan. But when I first got cable, circa 1980, the only superstation baseball we had was the Mets. With Lindsay Nelson and his outrageous sports jackets, and Bob Murphy. Couldn’t stand the Mets, but enjoyed the broadcasts. RIP, Ralph.

  10. halladaysbicepts - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    I am very sad with Ralph Kiner’s passing. I want to pay respect to him. 1st of all, my memories of him are solely as a broadcaster. When I was growing up in the 80’s in Philly, I would catch the Mets games on channel 9 with the antenna on a 13 inch TV. I remember his almost “Hawk Harrelson” approach to the game as well as his mispronunciation of many names. I remember never caring about that trivial stuff. Kiner was a joy to listen to on TV when the Mets were playing the Phillies, and vice versa.

    Ralph Kiner the player, who NONE of us EVER saw, was a different animal. This man LEAD the league in HRs his FIRST 7 years in MLB. In 10 years, the guy hit 369 HRs! Unheard of!

    RIP, Mr. Kiner. I remember you well. You gave me and my dad a lot of laughs in your broadcasts.

    • cur'68 - Feb 6, 2014 at 7:55 PM

      Well said.

      Happy Trails, Mr. Kiner.

  11. florida76 - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Kiner had bad timing in his playing career to only play for two winning teams, and he would mention his frustration about that fact many decades later. His numbers were even more remarkable given the little protection he had in those lineups. Incredible it took until 1975 for him reach Cooperstown.

  12. professor30 - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    i think it was Kiner who told a story that he once asked the Pirates for more money when his contract was up and was told if we came in last place with you we can come in last place without you.

    • chew1985 - Feb 6, 2014 at 6:42 PM

      Branch Rickey was that GM. He traded Kiner when a young power hitter named Frank Thomas showed he could hit with power, for a lot less money. Five years later when Thomas nearly won the NL MVP Award, Rickey traded him also for the same reason. Rickey was a shrewd GM for a variety of reasons. Check out his 1950 payout jackpot when he left the Dodgers.

      • buddaley - Feb 6, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        Kiner did not like Rickey. In his memoir, “Baseball Forever” he expresses his distaste. Although he agrees with the common view that Rickey deserves credit for integrating the game, he focuses more on the economic than ethical motive and notes that Rickey was in no hurry to integrate the Pirates when he became GM there. As evidence, he mentions that it wasn’t until Rickey’s fourth year there that the Pirates signed a black ball player, and that was well after most other teams had integrated.

        He concludes that discussion with the statement, “Rickey’s only possible defense is a sorry one; he might have been too penurious to pay a star African-American player.” He then goes on for about a page comparing Rickey to Veeck to Rickey’s disadvantage.

  13. cackalackyank - Feb 6, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    RIP Ralph. You will missed. As a kid growing up in the NY metro area, I remember watching Kiner’s (Korny) Korner after Met’s home telecasts. Some of those interviews were supremely awkward, even then, but Kiner always seemed to maintain his dignity.

  14. jkcalhoun - Feb 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    R.I.P. Ralph Kiner.

    Little known fact: at the end of the movie version of “Bang The Drum Slowly”, the scene with the group of Mammoths singing on a television show was shot on the set of Kiner’s Korner. Whenever I see that scene, it brings back memories of watching Mets baseball on WOR-TV and of Ralph Kiner’s postgame interviews.

  15. miamisilvio - Feb 6, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    “He slid into 2nd with a stand up double” and “Solo home runs usually happen with no one on base”.

    Quotations from the late, great Ralph Kiner. RIP Ralph.

    • roadtrip3500 - Feb 6, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      His partner announcers were trying to guess how late no-hitters go when they’re finally broken up, and Ralph ended the debate with a classic deadpan: “Most no-hitters are broken up in the 1st inning.”

  16. penguins87and71 - Feb 6, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    RIP Ralph Kiner. My prayers go out to his friends and family. Like my late great grandfather would use to say, Lest We Forget You Are To Good Be Forgotten.

  17. jeffhenning - Feb 6, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    I met Ralph Kiner when the Mets visited West Point to play an exhibition game in the spring of 1975. What a nice gentleman he was. I was his cadet escort. Knowing exactly who he was, and his great career in baseball, I was a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. But Ralph in particular made it easy just to sit and talk. I’d like to send my condolences to his family. He was as nice a person as anyone could hope to meet. Rest in peace Ralph, you earned it.

  18. dook517 - Feb 6, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    A great loss for the Mets family and baseball in general. R.I.P. Mr. Kiner.

  19. oregontuscans - Feb 6, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    I’m sure they’ve reserved a “Kiner’s Korner” for Ralph in the great beyond.

  20. aceshigh11 - Feb 6, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    Kiner was a highlight of Mets games for me growing up in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

    He lived a long, full life. RIP.

  21. Joe Vecchio - Feb 6, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    I too listened to the trio of Kiner, Murphy and Nelson growing up in Brooklyn as a young Mets fan, and later I was likewise spoiled by Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Weiren of the Braves. And judging from the caliber of many young announcers today, it seems his like will not be seen again. He will most definitely be missed. RIP sir!

  22. jlilly67 - Feb 6, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    Thank you Ralph.

  23. mtr75 - Feb 6, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    Please don’t diminish the life of this great man by quoting any of the loser Wilpons. Ralph was a beast of a player, but an even more memorable broadcaster. You had a good run, Ralph, 91 years. Godspeed.

  24. miamisilvio - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    And when he told that story to Jamie Lee Curtis, she jumped on him and threw her arms around him saying, “Daddy, I finally found you”!

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