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Ralph Kiner

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Ralph Kiner
A photo of Ralph Kiner.
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Ralph McPherran Kiner (born October 27, 1922) is an American former Major League Baseball player and current announcer. Though constant injuries forced his retirement from the game after only ten seasons, Kiner's tremendous slugging output during his short career outpaced nearly all of his National League contemporaries between the years 1946 and 1954. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975in what was to be his final year on the BBWAA ballot.

Playing careerEdit

Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, and grew up in Alhambra, California. He made his major league debut on April 16, 1946 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1947, he gained notice for hitting 51 home runs. Many of Kiner's homers were hit into a shortened left-field and left-center-field porch at Forbes Field, originally built for Hank Greenberg, and known in the press as "Greenberg Gardens"; the porch was retained for Kiner and redubbed by the media as "Kiner's Korner".(Lost Ballparks, Lawrence Ritter, Penguin Books, 1992, p.66-67) Kiner would later use "Kiner's Korner" as the title of his post-game TV show in New York.[1]

In 1949, Kiner topped his 1947 total with 54 home runs, falling just two short of Hack Wilson's 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 fifty-plus seasons. Kiner also matched his peak of 127 RBIs. From 1947 to 1951, Kiner topped 40 home runs and 100 RBIs each season. His string of seasons leading the league in home runs reached seven in 1952, when he hit 37. This was also 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.[2] He holds (by himself) the major league record of eight home runs in four consecutive games, a mark that he set in September, 1947, one month after he had a record tying streak of 7 home runs in 4 consecutive games.

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." [3] Footage of Kiner hitting a homer in Forbes Field can be seen in the 1951 film, Angels in the Outfield.[citation needed]

On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten player trade. 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." (This may be an all-purpose baseball quote, as a similar comment was reportedly made by Casey Stengel in reference to a possible trade of Van Lingle Mungo - The Gospel According to Casey, p.6)

Kiner played the rest of the 1953 season and all of 1954 with the Cubs, and finished his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1955; a back injury forced him out of baseball at that point. He retired at the age of 32. At the end of his ten seasons, he had amassed 369 home runs and 1019 runs batted in to go along with a career .279 batting average.

Kiner was not known for speed. In contrast to radio's "Quiz Kids" or the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies "Whiz Kids", according to Chicago columnist Mike Royko the 1950s Cubs had an outfield "that was so slow they were known as the Quicksand Kids." Hank Sauer played left field, Frank Baumholtz played center field, and Kiner split his time between left, center and right field. (One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, University of Chicago, 1999, p.29-31)

Broadcasting careerEdit

In 1961, Kiner made his way into the broadcast booth with the Chicago White Sox. The next year, Kiner, along with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, started announcing the games of the expansion New York Mets on WOR-TV in New York. The trio rotated announcing duties on the Mets' radio broadcasts, as well. Among Kiner's jobs on WOR-TV was to host a post-game show known as "Kiner's Korner".

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". He even once called himself "Ralph Korner". [4]

Despite a bout with Bell's palsy and a minor stroke, which left him with slightly slurred speech,[1] Kiner is still broadcasting, as an occasional guest color commentator, entering his 49th year of doing Mets broadcasts as of the start of the 2010 baseball season, though only as an occasionally guest analyst. He is the only broadcaster to survive all of the Mets history; Nelson had left the Mets for the San Francisco Giants in 1979, and Murphy retired in 2003. (Nelson died in 1995 and Murphy in 2004.) Kiner's traditional home-run call -- "it is gone, goodbye" or "that ball is gone, goodbye" -- is a signature phrase in baseball. Kiner has made the New York Mets Hall of Fame as a broadcaster. Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson, and Frank Cashen were the latest chosen for the honor (with Kiner on the selection Committee) in 2010.

LegacyEdit

Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.[5] Kiner had garnered 273 votes by the Baseball Writers Association, one more than the minimum required for election. It was in his final year of eligibility, 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 was one of four players elected in their final shot, along with Red Ruffing (1967 runoff), Joe Medwick (1968), and Jim Rice (2009) Kiner has expressed disappointment many times on the air that Gil Hodges has still not joined him in the Baseball Hall of Fame and has said that he hopes to be alive to witness the event. [6] [7]

Kiner was also elected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1984, along with fellow-Met announcers Bob Murphy and the retired Lindsay Nelson. Gil Hodges had earlier been selected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame. [8]

The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his uniform number 4 in 1987, at the same time {Bill Mazeroski]] was so-honored.[9]

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 handed out photos of Kiner. Tom Seaver was present on that night. Seaver gave 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. [2]Template:Dead link

See also Edit

References Edit

External linksEdit

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Preceded by:
Tommy Holmes
National League Home Run Champion
1946-1952
(1947-8 with Johnny Mize
1952 with Hank Sauer)
Succeeded by:
Eddie Mathews
Preceded by:
Stan Musial
National League RBI Champion
1949
Succeeded by:
Del Ennis
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