Today is the 90th birthday for baseball legend Ralph KIner, once a slugging All-Star first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and currently a guest analyst for the Mets on home weekends for SNY.
KINER: One of a kind.
I remember the first time I met Ralph. It was in Houston in the early 1980s when I was interning with the Houston Astros in their marketing/group sales department. I was interested in radio work and was given the opportunity to work with the visiting radio-TV crews feeding the guys notes and stats.
Growing up in Ohio I’d spend parts of my summers watching the pitiful Mets, but enjoyed listening to Ralph, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson. They were a joy to listen. I loved their stories and how they described a game. Far better than the Cleveland Indians broadcasters I watched at home.
Now I had the chance to hear those stories personally, and he was gracious with his time and the stories were so much better because I got to ask questions. Somewhere, I have an autographed ball with Kiner, Murphy and Steve Albert, a fellow Kent State grad like myself.
Kiner has led a grand life, one we’d all be envious of. Once a Navy Pilot during World War II, which is an awesome achievement in itself, Kiner graduated to the major leagues and while playing for the lowly Pirates, lead the National League in homers seven times. He played in baseball’s Golden Age, competing against fellow Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.
Kiner hit 51 homers in 1947 while striking out less than 100 times. Who can imagine that in today’s game?
The left field porch in old Forbes Field was dubbed “Kiner’s Korner,” the name he used for his postgame show after the Mets’ telecasts.
It was in the both where Kiner gained great acclaim as an analyst working with Nelson and Murphy, spinning yarns about the inner workings of the game and the characters who played it. He provided a combination of humor and insight.
Kiner became known for his malapropisms, which only can be defined as priceless. The following are a list of his best:
* “All of his saves have come in relief appearances”
* “All of the Mets road wins against the Dodgers this year occurred at Dodger Stadium.”
* “Cadillacs are down at the end of the bat.”
* “Darryl Strawberry has been voted to the Hall of Fame five years in a row.”
* “Hello, everybody. Welcome to Kiner’s Corner. This is….uh. I’m…uh”
* “He’s (Bruce Sutter) going to be out of action the rest of his career.”
* “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.”
* “I think one of the most difficult things for anyone who’s played baseball is to accept the fact that maybe the players today are playing just as well as ever.”
* “It’s (Phil Niekro’s knuckleball) like watching Mario Andretti park a car.”
* “Jose DeLeon on his career has seventy-three wins and one-hundred and five rbi’s.”
* “Kevin McReynolds stops at third and he scores.”
* “Now up to bat for the Mets is Gary Cooper.”
* “On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday.”
* “Solo homers usually come with no one on base.”
* “(Don) Sutton lost thirteen games in a row without winning a ballgame.”
* “The hall of fame ceremonies are on the thirty-first and thirty-second of July.”
* “The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning.”
* “The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball.”
* “This one deep to right and it is way back, going, going, it is gone, no off of the top of the wall.”
* “There’s a lot of heredity in that family.”
* “Tony Gwynn was named player of the year for April.”
* “Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”
* “You know what they say about Chicago. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.”
It was good to read these again and laugh. I hope Ralph has a lot of laughs on his birthday today, and every day.