Kiner c. 1953
October 27, 1922|
Santa Rita, New Mexico
February 6, 2014 (aged 91)|
Rancho Mirage, California
Ralph McPherran Kiner (October 27, 1922 – February 6, 2014) was an American Major League Baseball player. An outfielder, Kiner played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Cleveland Indians from 1946 through 1955. Following his retirement, Kiner served from 1956 through 1960 as general manager of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. He also served as an announcer for the New York Mets from the team's inception until his death. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner's tremendous slugging outpaced all of his National League contemporaries between the years 1946 and 1952. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
At the time of his death, baseball writer Marty Noble named Kiner "one of baseball's genuine and most charming gentlemen".
Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, and raised in Alhambra, California by his mother, Beatrice Grayson Kiner, after his father Ralph died when he was 4 years old. He was of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and Scots-Irish ancestry, although his maternal grandmother was Jewish. Kiner served as a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II.
Playing career (1946-1955)
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 fewer than 100 times. 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". Kiner would later use "Kiner's Korner" as the title of his post-game TV show in New York.
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 50 plus home run 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-HR, 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.
Kiner's 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. However, 1952 was a last-place season for the Pirates, and General Manager Branch Rickey proposed cutting Kiner's salary for the next season. When Kiner objected, Rickey famously quipped "Son, we could have finished last without you!"
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." Footage of Kiner hitting a home run in Forbes Field can be seen in the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield.
On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten-player trade. The Pirates traded Kiner, Joe Garagiola, George Metkovich, and Howie Pollet to the Cubs in exchange for Bob Addis, Toby Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, and $150,000. 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 him to retire at the age of 32, finishing his career with 369 home runs, 1019 runs batted in and a .279 lifetime batting average. He hit better than .300 three times, with a career best .313 with the Pirates in 1947.
Broadcasting career (1961-2013)
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 City. 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. He won a local Emmy Award for his broadcasting work.
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".
Despite a bout with Bell's palsy, which left him with slightly slurred speech, Kiner continued broadcasting for 53 seasons. Kiner's tenure with the Mets was the third-longest for an active broadcaster with a single team as of his final season. He is the third longest-tenured broadcaster in baseball history, trailing only Los Angeles Dodgers announcers Vin Scully (1950–2016) and Jaime Jarrín (1959–present). His traditional home run call—"It is gone, goodbye" was a signature phrase in baseball.
Kiner appeared 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 made room for Kiner as he shared stories of old-time baseball, as well as the current state of the game. During his final season (2013), he was the oldest active announcer in Major League Baseball.
Partly owing, as Kiner once said, to the fact that Hollywood megastar Bing Crosby was part-owner of the Pirates, Kiner was often closely linked with the likes of celebrities such as Crosby's colleague Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, but even more to publicized romances, dates or just splashy photos with leading ladies, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Janet Leigh.
Ralph Kiner died from natural causes in Rancho Mirage, California on February 6, 2014 at the age of 91. His family was at his side at the time of his death. Upon his death, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stated "Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history—An original Met and extraordinary gentleman." At the time of his death, Kiner was battling Bell's palsy, and the effects of a stroke he had suffered a decade ago that forced him to cut his schedule to a handful of games a season.
On February 21, 2014, an online Twitter petition was started to rename Citi Field Sections 132–134 as Kiner's Korner, to commemorate the 52-year Mets career of Ralph Kiner. As of March 29, 2014, the petition had over 5000 followers.
Kiner is survived by ex-wife, Ann Benisch (after their marriage ended in divorce), and also by sons Ralph and Scott; daughters, Kathryn Chaffee Freeman, Tracee Kiner Jansen and Kimberlee Kiner; and 12 grandchildren.
|Ralph Kiner's number 4 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987.|
Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. Kiner had garnered 273 votes by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, 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. He attended every Hall of Fame ceremony from the time he was inducted, until his death.
Kiner was elected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.
The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his uniform number 4 on September 19, 1987.
The Sporting News placed him at number 90 on its 1999 list of "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players, 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.
- Weber, Bruce. "Ralph Kiner, Slugger Who Became a Voice of the Mets, Dies at 91". The New York Times. February 6, 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
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- "Find A Grave Memorial for Ralph Macklin Kiner". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56931815. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
- Baseball Digest, 1948, by Charles J. Doyle of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph.
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- Fascinating facts from Friday's games | MLB.com: News
- Ryan Howard Statistics and History Baseball-Reference.com
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- "Mets Broadcasters". MLB.com. http://mlb.mlb.com/team/broadcasters.jsp?c_id=nym. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
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- Kohn, Bob. "Ex-Pirates great Ralph Kiner dies at 91". Trib Total Media, Inc.. http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/3329546-74/kiner-pirates-baseball#axzz3b0W8qSUh. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
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- Axisa, Mike (February 6, 2014). "Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner passes away at 91". CBS Sports.com. http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24433472/hall-of-famer-ralph-kiner-passes-away-at-91. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
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- Post Staff Report (March 1, 2014). "Fan pushes Mets to create ‘Korner’ to honor late broadcaster". The New York Post. http://nypost.com/2014/03/01/fan-push-mets-to-create-korner-to-honor-late-broadcaster/. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Met Kiner's Korner | Twitter. Twitter.com. Retrieved on March 29, 2014.
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- 100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News : A Legendary List by Baseball Almanac
- Heyman, Brian (July 15, 2007). "Kiner honored before Mets game". The Journal News.
- Famous Kiner quotes at Baseball Almanac
- Broadwater, Robert P. (2016). Ralph Kiner: A Baseball Biography. McFarland & Company. ISBN 078649817X. https://www.amazon.com/Ralph-Kiner-Biography-Robert-Broadwater/dp/078649817X/.
- Corbett, Warren. "Ralph Kiner". http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/b65aaec9.
- Kiner, Ralph; Peary, Danny (2004). Baseball Forever: Reflections on 60 Years in the Game. Triumph Books. ISBN 1572435976. https://www.amazon.com/Baseball-Forever-Reflections-Years-Game/dp/1572435976/.
- Rosenman, Mark; Karpin, Howie (2016). Down on the Korner: Ralph Kiner and Kiner's Korner. Carrel Books. ISBN 163144042X. https://www.amazon.com/Down-Korner-Ralph-Kiner-Kiners/dp/163144042X/.
|Wikiquote has media related to: Ralph Kiner|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Ralph Kiner.|
- Official website
- R at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors), or Rotowire, or Retrosheet
- Ralph Kiner at the Internet Movie Database
- Ralph Kiner at Find a Grave
|Hitting for the cycle
June 25, 1950
Roy Smalley Jr.
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