By Joseph Staszewski
Baseball and the New York Mets lost a treasure last week.
The death of Hall of Fame slugger and longtime Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, 91, of natural causes marks the loss of one of the game’s best people and a link to the Amazins’ past.
A six-time all-star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kiner joined the Mets broadcast team along with Bob Murphy and Lindsay Nelson for the Amazins’ inaugural season in 1962 and was a regular until 2006, when his workload was lessened to guest appearances. He is most well-known for Kiner’s Corner, a post-game interview show following Mets games.
What made Kiner special was the warmth with which he came across. You could sit there during the best and worst of games and get immersed in one of Kiner’s stories about the likes of Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Casey Stengel and Phil Niekro. To my generation, he was a link to baseball’s storied past, full of volumes of anecdotes and information. You always learned something by listening to Kiner.
There are few guys who could do what Kiner did because he played the game. He could relate to players and had a great ability to break down hitting. Kiner’s home run call of “Going, going, gone … goodbye!” will be forever stuck in Mets fans’ minds. Kiner’s Corner after games was a must-watch.
Sure there were funny moments, like Kiner mispronouncing players’ names, including even members of the Mets, and other whimsical flubs that occur to any broadcaster who has logged as many hours as Kiner had. Consider him the Mets’ version of Phil Rizzuto, who filled a similar roll on New York Yankees broadcasts.
In his later years, Kiner was treated with such reverence by current Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and radio voice Howie Rose that the three beamed every time Kiner joined them in the booth for games on SNY. It was like being around your grandfather and asking him to repeat your favorite stories so others had the joy of hearing them.
From now on, we will have go to YouTube to listen to Kiner’s knowledgeable, insightful and colorful approach to baseball broadcasting. Those of us lucky enough to take it in firsthand were better off for it and will never forget him.