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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Ralph Kiner, Mets broadcasting legend and Hall of Fame Pirates player, dead at 91

Kiner always credited Hank Greenberg, the equally renowned home run hitter who hit 58 for the Detroit Tigers in 1938, as having most influenced his career. Greenberg was acquired by the Pirates in 1947 specifically to tutor Kiner, but besides working with him on his hitting, Greenberg also cautioned Kiner about his partying ways while ingraining in him the value of hard work. In becoming the most prolific power hitter in baseball, Kiner was credited with having coined the phrase “home run hitters drive Cadilacs” although he later confessed the quote was actually attributed to him by a ‘40s Pirate teammate, lefthanded pitcher Fritz Ostermueller.

Unfortunately, during those first seven years in the big leagues, Kiner’s Pirates finished last or next-to-last five times while finishing over .500 only once, prompting what has become one of the most famous lines ever uttered by a baseball executive. It was after the 1952 season, in which Kiner had won his seventh straight home run title, that Pirates GM Branch Rickey nevertheless offered to cut his major league high salary of $90,000 some 22% to $70,000. When Kiner protested, Rickey replied: “Son, we could have finished last without you.”

kthejoker Posted: February 06, 2014 at 04:38 PM | 65 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, new york mets, pittsburgh pirates, rip

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   1. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4652816)
He was the second-oldest living Hall of Fame player, after Bobby Doerr. Red Schoendienst is now second.
   2. Dudefella Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4652821)
This hits me in a way that few baseball deaths do; I grew up in Brooklyn, and he spoke at my school several times while I was growing up. So long, Mr. Kiner.
   3. BDC Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:33 PM (#4652825)
I never saw him play, though I have the excuse that he retired three years before I was born. I did listen to Kiner's broadcasts, quite a bit, over the years. People made fun of his diction and his occasional meandering thoughts, but he was a pro who loved the game – I would class him with Phil Rizzuto, another broadcast fixture of my years in New York, who just made listening to the games fun, in a way that today's stat-and-canned-anecdote announcers, though more informative, are not.

And a great hitter. As Bill James once observed, at his peak Kiner hit .300, led the league in home runs and walks: what more can you ask?
   4. RJ in TO Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4652827)
It's a shame he's gone, but it sure seems like he had a pretty good life - major leaguer, hall of famer, beloved broadcaster, and lasted until he was 91.
   5. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:41 PM (#4652831)
This SI article about Kiner and recently-deceased Jerry Coleman was in one of the first issues I got.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:43 PM (#4652833)

http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com/2013/08/30/the-glory-of-ralph-kiners-times/

“Rube Marquard’s name came up during the Mets game Thursday because Max Scherzer was pitching in Detroit. Five days earlier he had defeated Matt Harvey for his 19th win against one loss. Scherzer’s 19-1 record is a rarity. Only a couple of pitchers had crafted one at any juncture of a season in the long history of baseball: Roger Clemens in 2001 and Rube Marquard in 1912. Nobody wants to talk about Clemens, so Ralph talked about Marquard.

Ralph didn’t see Rube pitch for the Giants that year. Even Ralph has his limits. But Ralph mentioned without pretension that he had met Rube — who was born in 1886, recorded 201 victories between 1908 and 1925, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971 and lived until 1980 — at an Old Timers Day and its attendant festivities somewhere along the way. Rube Marquard of the 1912 National League champion New York Giants was quite the dancer, Ralph informed us............

That was a new one.

Gary and Ron were dumbfounded. Ralph was just being Ralph.”


   7. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4652840)
Greenberg Gardens (335' down the line; 376' power alley) made Forbes Field a relatively easy home run park during Kiner's career in Pittsburgh, but I can only imagine what Kiner might have done if he'd played in Ebbets Field surrounded by The Boys of Summer in the lineup.
   8. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4652841)
This is sad news, but 91 is a pretty badass age to live to. We should all be so lucky.
   9. Gary Truth Serum Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:55 PM (#4652845)
He was the second-oldest living Hall of Fame player, after Bobby Doerr. Red Schoendienst is now second.

Monte Irvin turns 95 on February 25 and is still with us.
   10. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:56 PM (#4652846)
Around 1985 or so we got cable and one of the stations carried the Mets' games. Kiner was still involved with the broadcasts and he was an old man (to my teenage self) back then. That he got another 3 decades in and still fairly active and sharp is awfully impressive.

He made a lot of people happy as a player and an announcer, that's a nice legacy.
   11. AndrewJ Posted: February 06, 2014 at 05:56 PM (#4652847)
Hope he and Gary Cooper are talking baseball in Heaven.
   12. AROM Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4652852)
RIP Ralph. I had the chance to listen to Mets broadcasts for a few years in the mid 80's, and those were very Good(en) years.

Hard to believe in his first shot at the HOF in 1960, he only got 1.1% of the votes. 3.1% in 1962. Must have been reinstated a few times as he only got votes in even years through 1966, but from there on he started making progress.

I wonder what the voters in 1960 were thinking. OPS+, Runs created not yet invented. .279 batting average not enough? Unimpressed with his defense? He played on losing teams until his final season with the Indians, retired at age 32.

I can see reasons why he didn't get everyone's vote, but still I'd think all those HR titles to start his career would get him more than 1.1%.
   13. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4652863)
His and Bob Murphy's broadcasts got me to love baseball. Generally speaking, he seemed like a man who used every day he had.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4652865)
I wonder what the voters in 1960 were thinking. OPS+, Runs created not yet invented. .279 batting average not enough? Unimpressed with his defense? He played on losing teams until his final season with the Indians, retired at age 32.

One dimensional player. Terrible fielder and baserunner. Shortest possible HoF career. Greenberg Gardens. Teams never won until he became a part timer. And so on. But mostly it was just a preference for all around players unless they were completely transcendent in their one skill. It's the same reason that for a long time Cobb was considered greater than Ruth, and Dimaggio was considered more valuable than Williams.
   15. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4652867)
My experience was like Jose's in #10. I got cable some time in the mid 1980s and started watching Kiner and the Mets on WOR (and Skip Carey et al and the Braves on WTBS). Good times.

Ralph didn’t see Rube pitch for the Giants that year. Even Ralph has his limits. But Ralph mentioned without pretension that he had met Rube — who was born in 1886, recorded 201 victories between 1908 and 1925, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971 and lived until 1980 — at an Old Timers Day and its attendant festivities somewhere along the way. Rube Marquard of the 1912 National League champion New York Giants was quite the dancer, Ralph informed us............

In Kiner's rookie year he was managed by Frankie Frisch, who made his MLB debut in 1919 (playing on a team with Hal Chase, among others).

Fritz Ostermueller started for the Pirates in Kiner's debut, April 16, 1946. As a rookie on the 1934 Red Sox, Ostermueller was teammates with Herb Pennock, who debuted on the 1912 Athletics team that included Gettysburg Eddie Plank, who won 17 games for Philadelphia in the American League's first season. That team also included Bones Ely, who played in 1 game for the 1884 Buffalo Bisons, a team that included Davy Force, who played shortstop for the 1871 Washington Olympics in the National Association.

The 1934 Red Sox team that Ostermueller and Pennock played on was managed by Wilbert Robinson, who made his playing debut on the 1886 Athletics (of the American Association), alongside Bobby Mathews, who pitched all 19 games played by the 1871 Fort Wayne Kekiongas in the National Association.
   16. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4652873)
I was once lucky enough to attend an event on induction weekend where they close the Hall of Fame to the public but keep it open for all the Hall of Famers to wander around and look at the museum. I happened to strike up a conversation with Kiner and the first thing he wanted to know was if I could show him where the Hank Greenberg memorabilia was displayed. We walked over there and he spent a while looking at it silently, and even started to get a little emotional. "He was a great man," was all Kiner said.
   17. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:40 PM (#4652875)
Fritz Ostermueller was also, if you recall, one of the more notable movie villains of 2013.
   18. AndrewJ Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:40 PM (#4652877)
From BB-Ref, four of the 10 players most similar to Kiner through age 32 (McCovey, Killebrew, Schmidt, Reggie) are in the Hall. The other six include Thome, Belle and Dick Allen. The most interesting comp might be Rocky Colavito -- like Ralph, a popular, handsome slugger who never played on a pennant winner.
   19. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:42 PM (#4652878)
This is sad news, but 91 is a pretty badass age to live to. We should all be so lucky.

My dad turned 91 last August; thankfully, he's healthy as a bull, the recent pacemaker insertion notwithstanding. So please forgive me if I think Ralph, who was an absolute joy to listen to on both the radio and TV in the 70s and on TV in the 70s, 80s, and much of the 90s, should have lived another eight or nine years.
   20. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4652880)
The striking thing about the list in #18 is that everybody on it is either (a) a famous assshole, or (b) a famously nice guy. There is literally no middle ground except for perhaps Mike Schmidt.
   21. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:47 PM (#4652883)
Relatively short MLB career, much longer life, well-lived to all appearances. R.I.P.
   22. Downtown Bookie Posted: February 06, 2014 at 06:57 PM (#4652887)
Hope he and Gary Cooper are talking baseball in Heaven.


If they are, ain't nobody else getting a word in for quite some time.

I grew up watching/listening to Ralph, Bob Murphy, and Lindsey Nelson, as they were the Mets announcers for the first decade and a half of the team's existence. Always a joy to listen to. I have a few tapes of the radio broadcasts from those days; I need to break them out and give them another listen.

Re: #15 - Ralph Kiner was part of the Mets broadcasting team for every game that Casey Stengel managed the team (the final years of Casey's managerial career), and for every game that Joe Torre managed the team (the beginning years of Torre's managerial career). Oh, and as a further aside, Kiner was on the broadcast team for every game of Eddie Kranepool's career, which began under Stengel and ended under Torre.

DB
   23. AndrewJ Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:01 PM (#4652890)
Ralph went out with Elizabeth Taylor before her first marriage, and also dated Janet Leigh. (Richie Ashburn later told Jamie Lee Curtis, "I had a big crush on your mom, too, but I was only a singles hitter.")

The striking thing about the list in #18 is that everybody on it is either (a) a famous assshole, or (b) a famously nice guy. There is literally no middle ground except for perhaps Mike Schmidt.

Schmidt had the reputation of being something of (a) during his playing career, but appears to have mellowed into (b).
   24. tfbg9 Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:03 PM (#4652891)
RIP Ralph Kiner.
   25. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:08 PM (#4652895)
Hard to believe in his first shot at the HOF in 1960, he only got 1.1% of the votes. 3.1% in 1962. Must have been reinstated a few times as he only got votes in even years through 1966, but from there on he started making progress.

The voting was done every other year from '56 through '66. Kiner wasn't exactly the only player who had trouble gaining ground thanks to that brilliant idea.

Ted Williams won a Triple Crown in 1947, and finished a hit away from another in 1949 - and Ralph Kiner led the majors in slugging in both of those seasons. If you're going to be one dimensional, it helps if that dimension is really good.
   26. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:18 PM (#4652906)

RIP Ralph. Like others here, I grew up listening to his voice in the 80s and 90s, and I'm glad they were able to incorporate him into broadcasts in recent years. The stroke impaired his speech but he still knew the game and had some great stories.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:27 PM (#4652911)
By happenstance I wound up "broadcasting" the first game 30 years ago of the Mets' new Diamond Vision scoreboard at Shea (a NY-NJ college game played mainly to see if the new scoreboard had any glitches, it seemed). I had the legendary director Bill Webb in my ear, and got to sit in the Kiner-Nelson-Murphy broadcast booth. Webb would remind my partner and I to mention the score whenever we forgot, which was constantly.

It was very late March or very early April, and it was cold as a witch's nipple. I was amazed to notice that the booth was not only heated, but toasty even. I asked where Ralph kept his beer can during the game, and was corrected by an aide.

"Scotch," he said.
   28. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:32 PM (#4652915)
Kiner was one of the first broadcasters who showed you could be technically not all that competent, but still win an audience over with your charm. He was one of the first in a line that includes Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Garagiola, late-career Harry Caray, and yes, Hawk Harrelson. (Though I admit the Hawk is lost on most of us, his supposed charm is what endears him to those few lost souls who do like him.)
   29. Moeball Posted: February 06, 2014 at 07:59 PM (#4652928)
I know we are in the era of online stats now, so I don't even know if this is true anymore but - in the old days, it seemed like every Baseball Encyclopedia always had Kiner right next to Killebrew on the same page. Somehow that always seemed fitting.

Looking at Kiner's Home/Road splits - yes, he appeared to be helped at home as has been mentioned above but he still had an .884 career OPS on the road. Also had some other unusual patterns - hit with much more power against RHP despite being a righty, but had much higher OBA vs. LHP, mainly due to walking much more against lefties. They didn't keep track of intentional walks in his day but I'm sure there were a lot of lefties who wanted no part of him, particularly with runners on base.

Kiner also impacted Ted Williams' career in a bizarre way. Ted had been pretty durable and didn't miss very many games from 1939-1949, but in the 1950 AS game Kiner hit a drive to the wall that Ted made a great leaping catch on. Unfortunately for Ted, he whacked his elbow pretty hard on the wall in making the catch, resulting in a serious injury that caused him to miss most of the rest of the season. Williams never was really the same player again after that, although his 1957 season rivaled some of his earlier ones despite missing several games.

Kiner is still the only player in history to lead his league in HRs his first 7 years in the majors. That's pretty impressive. Hopefully, people thinking about Kiner will also remind some people of the underrated Johhny Mize, who tied Kiner for the HR lead in both '47 and '48.
   30. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4652932)
Kiner is still the only player in history to lead his league in HRs his first 7 years in the majors.


Hell, he's probably the only one to lead the first 2.

Edit: I think he's the only one to lead in his first 1.
   31. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4652935)
As I recall (reading), when Branch Rickey took over the Pirates the first thing he wanted to do was trade Kiner, but ownership feared the fans' reaction if he did, so Rickey engaged in a very public systematic denigration of his team's star to lower his value. If so, I wonder what impact that may have had on Hall of Fame voters ten years later.

Misirlou: Mark McGwire led as a rookie, but I guess you're being literal when you say "first year in the majors"?
   32. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:15 PM (#4652937)
Also had some other unusual patterns - hit with much more power against RHP despite being a righty, but had much higher OBA vs. LHP, mainly due to walking much more against lefties

You know, he specifically mentioned that once during a broadcast in the 70's or 80's . He said he could REALLY see the ball (especially a curve ball) from a righty better than from a lefty. Don't ask me to explain (because he couldn't).

(and don't axe me why the hell I remember that)
   33. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:16 PM (#4652940)
Misirlou: Mark McGwire led as a rookie, but I guess you're being literal when you say "first year in the majors"?


Well, yeah, that was the initial statement.

Yes, I know about McGwire. Maybe there's 1 or 2 more. There's no good way to search on P-I for players who were still considered rookies in their 2nd or 3rd year (like ARod.). I confidant no one besides Kiner lead their league in HR their very first year (HR more than 10 anyway. I'm not particularly interested in a guy leading the 1878 NL with 4 or whatever).
   34. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:28 PM (#4652945)
There's no good way to search on P-I for players who were still considered rookies in their 2nd or 3rd year (like ARod.).


That was true for a long time, but Sean's recently added a feature that does exactly what you're describing. It's a checkbox in the lower left-hand corner of the main P-I season finder.

The problem is there's no way to search P-I for guys who led the league in home runs.

EDIT: So, using P-I and browsing through the list... the rookies to lead their league in home runs are Mark McGwire, Al Rosen, Ralph Kiner, Tim Jordan, Buck Freeman, Bug Holliday, Billy O'Brien, and maybe a few other guys if they had fewer than 11 home runs, which is as far down the rookie list as I went.
   35. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:34 PM (#4652947)
The problem is there's no way to search P-I for guys who led the league in home runs.


Well, that's easy. just scroll through the list and look for the bold.
   36. God Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:34 PM (#4652948)
Yes. Which is what I did.
   37. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:36 PM (#4652949)
but Sean's recently added a feature that does exactly what you're describing. It's a checkbox in the lower left-hand corner of the main P-I season finder.


Thank you Sean. Is there nothing you can't do?
   38. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 08:45 PM (#4652953)
If you just run a P-I search for the players with the most home runs in their first/rookie season, you can visually scan the list for ones with "black ink" in the HR column.

Kiner is the only one who did it in his first season (at least the only one who did so with more than 10 HR; I stopped looking after that).

Al Rosen (37 in 1950) and Mark McGwire (49 in 1987) are the others who led the league in HR in their rookie seasons, but it was not their first year. Dutch Zwilling also led the Federal League with 16 HR in 1914; I stopped looking for guys with fewer than that many.

EDIT: Coke to God.
   39. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 06, 2014 at 11:12 PM (#4652998)
I realize the contempt for Tim McCarver here, but (as many have said, including me) he was very, very good when he started out as a Mets announcer. And one of the most valuable things he did was to engage Kiner in dialog about baseball. It turns out Kiner was very knowledgeable, but after 20 odd years (very odd) with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, he was just mailing it in. Can't blame him.

Anyway, McCarver would start up discussions of in-game and defensive positioning and pitch-by-pitch strategy and Kiner was very informative in response
   40. Rough Carrigan Posted: February 06, 2014 at 11:14 PM (#4652999)
"Kevin Bass gets hit in the last three letters of his name."
   41. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 06, 2014 at 11:20 PM (#4653002)
He was the second-oldest living Hall of Fame player, after Bobby Doerr.


I have an autograph Doerr ball on my desk right now. My dad met him about 8 years ago and had a nice chat with him. Doerr got his address and sent an autographed ball with HOF cards and stuff, it's pretty cool. He was my dad's favourite player growing up. Needless to say my fandom was kind of predestined.
   42. Howie Menckel Posted: February 07, 2014 at 12:58 AM (#4653028)

"I realize the contempt for Tim McCarver here, but (as many have said, including me) he was very, very good when he started out as a Mets announcer. And one of the most valuable things he did was to engage Kiner in dialog about baseball. It turns out Kiner was very knowledgeable, but after 20 odd years (very odd) with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, he was just mailing it in. Can't blame him.

Anyway, McCarver would start up discussions of in-game and defensive positioning and pitch-by-pitch strategy and Kiner was very informative in response."

yes, for all of the malaprops of both, in their early years together they were groundbreaking.

Bob Ojeda talked today about how when Kiner asked him questions, it was the first time he felt like he was talkng to someone who "really gets it."

I wonder if that includes other ex-ballplayer announcers. Ojeda is a smart guy, and Kiner beneath the fun missteps was a brilliant student of the game.

   43. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: February 07, 2014 at 01:41 AM (#4653031)
I confidant no one besides Kiner lead their league in HR their very first year (HR more than 10 anyway. I'm not particularly interested in a guy leading the 1878 NL with 4 or whatever).


Phooey. I was all set to get nitpicky and demand that you respect the achievement of Levi Myerle, Fred Treacey, and Lip Pike, who tied for the league lead in 1871 with 4. But it's pretty easy to lead the league your first year when it's also the league's first year. There's also Harry Stovey, who tied for the lead his first year in 1880 with 6, but I think that's all.

(I used the year-by-year top ten HR list and just checked each year's winners to see if it was their first year)
   44. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 07, 2014 at 04:04 AM (#4653042)
You guys aren't emphasizing the correct word. Kiner was the only player to lead the league in home runs in HIS first seven seasons. That's indisputable.
   45. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: February 07, 2014 at 05:28 AM (#4653045)
I realize the contempt for Tim McCarver here, but (as many have said, including me) he was very, very good when he started out as a Mets announcer. And one of the most valuable things he did was to engage Kiner in dialog about baseball. It turns out Kiner was very knowledgeable, but after 20 odd years (very odd) with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, he was just mailing it in. Can't blame him.

Anyway, McCarver would start up discussions of in-game and defensive positioning and pitch-by-pitch strategy and Kiner was very informative in response

This.
   46. BDC Posted: February 07, 2014 at 08:57 AM (#4653061)
Mention of Mike Schmidt above makes me think of one of Ralph Kiner's verbal habits: he would always call Schmidt "Smitt": I suspect because the risk of calling him "Schit" was too great if he began with the /?/.
   47. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 07, 2014 at 09:42 AM (#4653077)
So please forgive me if I think Ralph, who was an absolute joy to listen to on both the radio and TV in the 70s and on TV in the 70s, 80s, and much of the 90s, should have lived another eight or nine years.


Why settle for just 8 or 9 more? My stepmother had a great aunt who died in November at 109.
   48. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 07, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4653078)
#46 - he actually may not have been able to pronounce it. My mother-in-law can't say "shrimp" - she pronounces it "srimp".
   49. rpackrat Posted: February 07, 2014 at 09:49 AM (#4653082)
Everyone I know who met him said he was a very nice man and very intelligent. He was a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence. RIP Ralph.
   50. God Posted: February 07, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4653088)
Mention of Mike Schmidt above makes me think of one of Ralph Kiner's verbal habits: he would always call Schmidt "Smitt": I suspect because the risk of calling him "Schit" was too great if he began with the /?/.


Vin Scully, for all his greatness, cannot say "Goldschmidt" to save his life. He can say Gold, and he can say Schmidt, but he cannot say the two together. It usually comes out "Goldschmith."
   51. Howie Menckel Posted: February 07, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4653129)

Gary Myers, ex-Kiner's Korner intern

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/myers-happy-kiner-korner-article-1.1605106

   52. depletion Posted: February 07, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4653135)
My condolences to the Kiner family and Ralph's many friends. I started listening in '66. When you're young, the words of an adult announcer are authoritative and interesting. As one ages you ask more questions, wonder about the motivations for statements. My vision of Ralph is still that of a 9 year old fascinated by the crack of the bat and the graceful fielders. I have two anecdotes to share.
Ralph was an older guy, but seemed like he could relate to all the players, young, hispanic, black, hipsters, in his show Kiner's corner. I never saw a guest there, visitor or home team, seem uneasy or stiff. Pete Rose, Bake McBride, Tug McGraw. I think it was on Ralph's show that Tug initially blurted "You gotta believe, Ralph!". My fond memory is of Nolan Ryan in the 1969 WS locker room, drenched in champagne, saying "Ralph I just want to say.......Aw I can't say it!". Some times no words say a lot.

God have mercy on his soul.
   53. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 07, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4653143)
My mother-in-law can't say "shrimp" - she pronounces it "srimp".


Virginia Beach? They do that on purpose.

I was never a Mets fan growing up -- not even in 1969 or 1973 -- but I loved Kiner's Korner. And Lindsey Nelson's sport coats.

When you're young, the words of an adult announcer are authoritative and interesting. As one ages you ask more questions, wonder about the motivations for statements.


When you're young, you think that the people telling you about baseball on the TV know everything there is to know about baseball. As you get older, you realize that you knew more than most of them when you were nine. Ralph Kiner was a notable exception. And an absolute joy.
   54. stanmvp48 Posted: February 07, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4653176)

Why did his career end so early?
   55. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 07, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4653195)
Back went out.
   56. Morty Causa Posted: February 07, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4653295)
I never did get to see Ralph in action, but the reminisces here sure make me realize my loss.
   57. jingoist Posted: February 07, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4653415)
" Open the window Aunt Minnie, here she comes"
Rosie Rosewell; Pirate broadcaster calling yet another Kiner HR circa 1951 on KDKA 1020 on your AM dial.
One of my very earliest baseball memories.
I too have heard a similar story to the one told about Rickey wanting to "smooth the way" for getting Kiner out of Pittsburgh.
We never could understand why as Ralph was the only reason, outside of the O'Brien twins (I jest), to go downtown to see the Buccos.
   58. gehrig97 Posted: February 07, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4653453)
I didn't realize Kiner was the source for one of my all-time favorite baseball quotes: "Two thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other third is covered by Garry Maddox."

RIP Ralph. A life well-lived.
   59. Tippecanoe Posted: February 07, 2014 at 07:33 PM (#4653465)
Speaking of quotes, Kiner was responsible for one of my favorite all-time on-air malapropisms when he used the phrase "...clear as a three-dollar bill".

Seems like he was a great guy.
   60. bjhanke Posted: February 07, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4653489)
I'm not positive, and my computer will no longer go to BB-Ref at all (I need a new computer), but I think Buck Ewing may have been in his first year when he led the NL in homers, with ten, in 1880. Ewing's ten whole homers actually set a record for homers in a season in MLB history at the time by anyone, rookie or no. THAT list - people in their first year who set a new MLB record in homers - is going to be REALLY small. If it doesn't include Ewing, it might only be the guys from 1871. - Brock Hanke
   61. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: February 07, 2014 at 09:49 PM (#4653514)
Buck Ewing's year for leading the league was 1883. He had only 13 games in 1880, and he didn't homer in any of them. Here are his first four years, with black ink represented:

1880: 0
1881: 0
1882: 2
1883: 10

(note that if you're curious who did lead the league in 1880, that information is included in post 43)
   62. bjhanke Posted: February 08, 2014 at 04:10 AM (#4653573)
Monty - Thanks! When I say that I need a new computer, I mean that I need a new browser, but my operating system, which is ten years old, already has the latest version that it can take. That means I need a new operating system, but I really need backwards compatibility to keep alive the things I've been working on for years. Most modern OS do not have backwards compatibility, so I end up needing a new computer. In any case, I can't go to BB-Ref or seamheads, and I've long since packed away all my paper encyclopedias, and am not completely sure where they are any more. So I appreciate it when someone is able and willing to check my memory, since I can't until I get a new computer. So, thanks again! - Brock
   63. TerpNats Posted: February 08, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4653602)
Ralph went out with Elizabeth Taylor before her first marriage, and also dated Janet Leigh. (Richie Ashburn later told Jamie Lee Curtis, "I had a big crush on your mom, too, but I was only a singles hitter.")
Another celeb he went out with was '40s singer and early '50s MGM starlet Monica Lewis, who's now in her early 90s, has a Facebook page with some perceptive observations, and wrote this about Kiner the other day:

"I met Ralph in early 1949 when my friend Jack Eigen, host of the popular New York midnight talk radio show 'Meet Me at the Copa,' asked me to substitute for him while he vacationed. Chatting with celebrities was a breeze for me... until it came to making intelligent baseball conversation with Ralph, who could sense immediately that this songbird was a sports non-nut. After I stammered mid-talk trying to recall his game stats, he stared at me with a big grin and asked me what league he was with... and live, on the air, I completely blanked! I laughed and apologized to Ralph and the listening audience. Ralph then asked me if I'd accompany him to a performance of 'South Pacific,' much to the listeners' delight. Ralph proved to be a true gentleman, and although we dated semi-regularly for about nine months, we both pretty much knew marriage wasn't in the cards. He did quite well romantically, nonetheless -- squiring the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh before settling down. I'll always remember him as a multifaceted, life-loving guy who made me laugh, showed me some great times and encouraged me to appreciate the sport of baseball -- something that played an important role when I eventually met my own true soulmate. (Thank you, Ralph!) Love, Monica"

Monica may not have become a "sports nut," but on her site are photos of her with her children at prime seats at Dodger Stadium in its early years. Oh, and that "soulmate" would be agent Jennings Lang, at one time involved with Joan Bennett...and he paid the price for it thanks to producer Walter Wanger (Bennett's husband), who paid his own price with a prison sentence.
   64. Morty Causa Posted: February 08, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4653612)
Some sources claim Wanger caught Lang and Bennett in flagrante delicto. He served jail time for shooting Lang in the act, then upon his release was producer of the gritty B movie Riot in Cell Block 11, directed by Don Siegel, and featuring a staple villain of the '50s, Leo Gordon, whom Siegel called "the scariest man I ever met" (think about the guys Siegel met). Gordon, when he would enter the prison for each day's filming, the same prison where he had been previously an inmate, the prison officials would draw him aside and search him going in and coming out. Wanger was a pretty big time producer (Stagecoach, among others). This was before Lang hitched up with Monica.
   65. gehrig97 Posted: February 08, 2014 at 07:31 PM (#4653724)
Another quote, describing Howard Johnson tracking balls in centerfield: "He looks like a bumblebee out there."

(I have to admit, I can't be sure if this was Kiner... I know it was a Mets broadcaster in the late-80s. But damn, that is one of the all-time best "gentle" baseball insults I've ever heard).

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