Archive for the 'Ralph Kiner' Category

Ralph Will Be Missed

One of my favorite memories of Ralph Kiner was from a game I hardly remember. It was from the late 60s or early 70’s. I don’t remember who the Mets were playing or if the game was home or away. I know it was a day game and honestly there was nothing really significant about that game I can recall except one thing.

At one point in the game a ball was hit to deep left (or was it right?). The Mets’ Ron Swoboda went back on the ball and turned as he approached the wall. With sunglasses down, Ron lost the ball in the sun as it struck him in the face. Without skipping a beat, Ralph called the play as no other could. As the runner headed to second Kiner said “so and so is pulling up to second having doubled off the nose of Ron Swoboda.” I roared. Only Ralph could make a call like that. Not the great Lindsey Nelson or not the great Bob Murphy could have pulled it off, only Ralph. He just had that dead pan delivery that would make you laugh.

With the loss of Ralph Kiner, there is little left to connect the franchise to its roots of 1962. Ed Kranepool will have to hold that torch moving forward but Eddie is not part of the day to day operations of the Mets. And even though Kiner only did a handful of games a season in recent years, his presence was still felt.

We often wax poetic about those we love even when there were chinks in the armor. By all accounts, Kiner was a wonderful person, a great ballplayer, a military hero, an outstanding golfer, and he dated starlets. But Ralph could butcher a call with the best of them. He got player’s names wrong all the time and could mangle pronunciations that would make Leo Gorcey blush. But because of his incredible knowledge of the game, his ability as a Hall of Fame player who led the National League in homers for seven consecutive seasons, and his infections and funny personality, we dismiss the quirks of referring to Gary Carter as Gary Cooper or Gary Cohen as David Cone. Those things are just part of what made Ralph Kiner so special and so much a part of the Mets culture for over half a century.

Ralph will be missed just as we missed Murph. But the stories he told will live on. Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Howie Rose, and hopefully Josh Lewin will often recount them. One of my favorite Kiner remarks was about conditioning. While discussing the vast amount of hamstring and oblique injuries for the modern ballplayer, Gary Cohen asked Ralph why it seemed there were not as many of those types of injuries in the old days. Ralph retorted “Well you can’t pull fat”.

And who can forget Ralph’s story about asking Branch Rickey, then GM of the Pirates, for a raise after Ralph once again led the NL in homers. Ralph recalled Rickey saying “We finished in last place with you, we can finish in last place without you”. Well one thing is certain Ralph, the Mets can finish in last place without you too but it will never be the same.