Ralph Kiner, Mets Longtime Announcer And Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Dies At 91
For many New Yorker’s who grew up watching or listening to baseball, a part of their childhood ended today February 6 2014, with the death of Pirates slugger and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner.
Ralph Kiner had a brief, yet great playing career followed by a long TV and radio career where he had been with the Mets broadcast team since their inaugural season in 1962.
Besides announcing Mets games, many baseball fans enjoyed watching Kiner through the Mets post-game TV show Kiner’s Korner.
The obituary writers will surely cover Kiner’s career thoroughly, but here are five things you might not have known about Ralph Kiner:
1. In the 1940’s Chicago Cubs scout Dutch Ruether found two bright prospects he wanted to bring to the Cubs. He got Ralph Kiner and Ewell Blackwell to agree to be signed for what he thought were bargain price bonuses. The Cubs didn’t sign Kiner saying it was too much money. The cost? $3,000! Blackwell wanted only $750 and the Cubs passed on him too!
2. Ralph Kiner came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 and had one of the most extraordinary starts to a career, leading the National League in home runs for seven consecutive years.
3. In 1947 Ralph Kiner became just the fifth player in the history of baseball to hit 50 or more home runs in a year.
4. In his short career which spanned only ten years (1946-1955) Kiner hit 369 career home runs and walked 1,011 times, but struck out only 749 times.
5. According to Pirate teammate Joe Garagiola, Kiner was one of the great practical jokers in baseball. Kiner’s frequent victim was Pirates trainer Doc Jorgensen. One day Kiner removed all of the bottles and bandages out of Jorgensen’s medical kit. Later during a game when a player got spiked, Jorgensen ran out to the field and opened his bag to treat the player, and found that it was filled with sandwiches courtesy of Ralph Kiner.
I believe that the price of a ticket to the left field bleacher was only fifty cents in the early forties.
Guys used to bring in quarter barrells of beer out in those bleachers. Now, you can’t even
bring in a sandwich to watch a ball game.
Kiner once mentioned that he was the first major leaguer to wear a batting helmet. I have no idea if this is true or not.
Interesting claim. It probably could use further explanation. There were players and teams that wore protective helmets previously. But the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953 were the first team to regularly wear batting helmets and Kiner did start the season with them. Was he the first player to regularly adopt its use? I don’t know.
Probably true because those helmets were manufactured under the left field bleachers at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.