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In memoriam: Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer who gained wider fame as a New York Mets broadcaster for more than 50 years, passed away today. He was 91.

Kiner first gained fame with the Pirates as a home-run hitter whose favorite target in Forbes Field became known as Kiner’s Korner, notching 51 round-trippers in 1947 and leading the major leagues in home runs for six straight seasons. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall oif Fame in 1975.

The second version of Kiner’s Korner — a wood-grained studio hosting his post-game Mets show — propelled Kiner to a larger audience. Not exactly the smoothest broadcaster on the planet, Kiner could mangle a phrase one minutes and then come through with an extraordinary explanation of a player. That, of course, was immediately endearing to Mets fans, especially during those days when the Mets were dreadful and entertainment was needed. From Newsday:

Kiner’s Korner quickly became a quirky institution. The very first show, with Casey Stengel, went well until Stengel walked off without unhooking the microphone and brought down the set with him. Kiner liked to recall his exchange with laconic catcher Choo Choo Coleman in which the host asked the player, “What’s your wife like?” and Coleman responded, “She likes me, bub.”

The announcer kept his stride even after the postgame show was discontinued. Tim McCarver, upon entering the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, cited the years he spent in the Mets’ booth with Kiner, calling the time “a privilege and an honor” — even when Kiner mistakenly called him “Tim MacArthur.”

McCarver defused the error, saying that Kiner must have been thinking of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who once said that chance favors a prepared man. To which Kiner added, “Douglas MacArthur also said, ‘I shall return,’ and we’ll be right back after this.”

“Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history — an original Met and extraordinary gentleman,” Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon said in a statement. “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.”

Ralph Kiner was born Oct. 27, 1922 in a New Mexico mining town, and his mother moved to California when he was four after the death of his father. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent in 1940 but left a minor-league career after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He returned to resume his career, which was cut short by injury. He was GM of the Pacific Coast League’s San Diego Padres before joining the Chicago White Sox broadcast team in 1961 and then moved to be part of the original Mets broadcast team with Lindsay Nelson and Bob Murphy (the trio is shown below).

Mets broadcast team

Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner


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