Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner has passed away at the age of 91. He died of natural causes and was surrounded by family, which I think is about as much as any of us can hope for when our time comes.
Kiner was a star slugger for the Pirates in the years following World War II. He won an incredible 7 consecutive home run crowns between 1946 and 1952, in the process becoming the first player in National League history with multiple 50+ HR seasons. Kiner was a 6-time All-Star and finished in the top ten of the MVP balloting 5 times.
Kiner later spent a year and a half with the Cubs, before the Indians traded Sam Jones away to acquire Kiner's services for the 1955 season. Kiner was slowed by a back injury, but still managed to hit 18 home runs in 321 at bats with the Tribe. Unfortunately, his back was in bad enough shape that Kiner was forced to retire at the end of the season, despite being only 32 years old.
Kiner also gained fame and adoration as an announcer. A year after beginning his broadcast career with the White Sox, Kiner began calling games for the Mets in 1962, the team's inaugural season. He stayed in the booth until 2006, one of the longest tenures in sports. In recent years, while no longer one of the team's regular announcers, he made occasional guest appearances. Kiner was very popular as an announcer, but also known for his frequent malapropisms, which include:
- "All his saves have come in relief appearances."
- "On Father's Day, we again wish you all a Happy Birthday."
- "The Mets have gotten their leadoff hitter on only once this inning."
- "There's a lot of heredity in that family."
He also spoke one of the great lines in baseball history, describing one of the great defensive outfielders of the 1970s:
"Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox."
I love that line.
Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975, and was the second-oldest living Hall of Famer at the time of his death (Bobby Doerr, 95, is the oldest). At the time of his retirement, Kiner's 369 career home runs ranked 6th in baseball history, and his 351 home runs in the National League were 2nd only to Mel Ott. Kiner hit a home run for every 14.1 at bats, the 6th best rate ever, and second among right-handed hitters.
Few players ever hit them out of the park like Kiner did.