Longtime Mets broadcast Ralph Kiner has passed away. He was 91.
Kiner started broadcasting Mets games in 1962 on WOR-TV, alongside Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. Kiner has continued calling Mets games up through the 2013 season, making occasional appearances on SNY. He also hosted "Kiner's Korner" after Mets home games, interviewing players and coaches.
His broadcasting career came after a 10-year playing career with the Pirates, Cubs and Indians. He hit 369 home runs in his career, including a 54 home run season with Pittsburgh in 1949. He led Major League Baseball in home runs from 1947 through 1952.
Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975, elected into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984. His number, 4, was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987.
He was an outstanding player. But, I'm a Mets fan in large part because of how Kiner and Tim McCarver explained the game on WOR-TV in the 80s. They narrated my love affair with baseball and the ups and downs of this franchise. Kiner, in particular, made the game romantic, telling stories that combined baseball and Hollywood in a way I never knew existed. He made me feel like, as a young fan, I was part of a legacy. He talked about hitting, technique, race, life on the road, personalities, aging, success and failure, and everything in between. He shaped a lot of how I look at the game on field. I'm not alone. He had this impact on others, and in that way he'll live on forever...
This is a sad day for Mets fans. Ralph was very much a part of our lives, as his eloquence, style and voice were synonymous with Mets games for more than 50 years. He was an institution in the industry, as he set standards for everyone who followed in his footsteps, both with the Mets and with other teams around professional sports. I always enjoyed listening to his voice, his stories and how he integrated them into the game he was broadcasting. He was funny, charming and dramatic all at the same time, and his knowledge of the game was like none other in the business. I - like many of you - grew up with Ralph, and I always felt like he was holding my hand as I watched any given game.
I often forget about Ralph's baseball career, but for a 10-year stretch he was one of the most dominant power hitters in baseball and easily one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history. He was forced to retire at 32 as a result of a back injury. Perhaps his short, yet dominant playing career was serendipitous for the New York Mets. I am thankful for Ralph, and he will always be a big part of my memories of the Mets.
To watch SNY's Kiner's Korner Revisited from 2010, when Ted Berg sat with Ralph to watch old episodes and talk about the game, click here...
[sny-accordion title="For thoughts from the Mets, SNY, and former players on the passing of Kiner, click here..."]
"Ralph Kiner was a giant in every sense of the word. His impact on Mets fans over 52 years in the booth is immeasurable. We will not only miss his insights and knowledge of the game, but more importantly, his engaging personality and huge heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Kiner family."
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 twelve grandchildren. Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats."
"He was a jewel. He loved the game of baseball. He loved to see it played correctly and smartly. He loved to talk baseball. He deeply understood the game, especially hitting. "
"He was my broadcast partner for 10 years. We had great fun during the games. We both enjoyed good food and wine. Most of all, he was one of the nicest human beings I've ever met."
"He was a player's guy. We didn't win a lot in those days. He didn't try to hide the fact we were losing, but he did it in a nice way. I lost a lot of games in 1962 and 1963 and had no problem going on with him."
"In those days we didn't have hitting coaches. I was struggling. One September afternoon in 1969 (September 15), I asked him to come and feed balls through the pitching machine. We talked for about an hour. He gave me tips on holding the bat. That night I had the greatest night of my career. I hit two home runs off Steve Carlton and we won, 4-3." (Swoboda's two two-run home runs accounted for all Mets runs on the night Carlton struck out 19).
"I loved going on Kiner's Korner. I enjoyed talking baseball with Ralph, especially learning about players from his era. But what really made it special was every time you went on, you got a $100. For a rookie like me in 1984, a $100 was a big deal."
"Losing Ralph is like losing a member of the family. His warmth, humility and sense of humor will be missed. I'll always treasure being able to share a broadcast booth with a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."