Friday, February 7, 2014

Ralph Kiner, 1922-2014.

A piece of my childhood died yesterday in the form of a strapping home-run-hitter and baseball raconteur Ralph Kiner.

Kiner, who played for the perennially horrible Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, began his baseball playing career in the late 40s and ended it only ten years later when chronic back pain disabled him. Though he played only a short time, he led the National League in home runs seven times and was seventh on the all-time list (ahead of the great DiMaggio) when he retired with 369 round-trippers. Mays never hit as many home runs in a season, neither did Aaron, or Banks, or Musial or Matthews.

That said, as a child of the 60s and 70s, I was introduced to Kiner when he was an announcer for the Mets--a job he held from their inception in 1962 and continued at least sporadically through last season. He also hosted a cheesy post-game show where he'd talk about the game with a notable Met (there's an oxymoron) called Kiner's Korner.

I never liked Kiner as an announcer. He was, in the parlance of baseball journalism, a "homer," meaning that he rooted for, while he was announcing, the Mets. I guess I always believed an announcer should behave more like a journalist and be impartial. My point of view, of course, was a minority one. People loved hearing from Kiner and his "kolleagues," that the Mets could claw back an win a game where they trailed by six runs in the eighth with Felix Milan coming to the plate.

Kiner also rubbed me the wrong way because he often seemed to be drunk while announcing games and while hosting Kiner's Korner. He slurred his words and slaughtered the English language. Some baseball announcers (and players, and managers) do this in an endearing way. For instance, I was cool with Dizzy Dean saying something like "He slud into second," but I always looked at Kiner, perhaps uncharitably, as a sloppy sot.

In any event, Kiner being something of a New York fixture, his obituary quickly made the rounds in New York's three major daily newspapers. All the obits I've read, and I've read many, remarked on Kiner's gift of malaprop.

Whether these malaprops were the product of a naturally addlepated brain, or one muddled by drink, I don't know. But my policy has always been, never look a gift malaprop in the moth.

  • All of his saves have come in relief appearances.
  • All of the Mets road wins against the Dodgers this year occurred at Dodger Stadium.
  • Darryl Strawberry has been voted to the Hall of Fame five years in a row.
  • Hello, everybody. Welcome to Kiner's Korner. This is....uh. I'm...uh.
  • He's going to be out of action the rest of his career." 
  • If Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave."
  • I think one of the most difficult things for anyone who's played baseball is to accept the fact that maybe the players today are playing just as well as ever."
  • Jose DeLeon on his career has seventy-three wins and one-hundred and five rbi's.
  • Kevin McReynolds stops at third and he scores
  • On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday.
  • Solo homers usually come with no one on base.
  • Sutton lost thirteen games in a row without winning a ballgame.
  • The hall of fame ceremonies are on the thirty-first and thirty-second of July.
  • The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning.
  • The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball.
  • There's a lot of heredity in that family.
  • Tony Gwynn was named player of the year for April.

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