Ralph Kiner

Ralph McPherran Kiner (October 27, 1922 – February 6, 2014) was an American Major League Baseball player and broadcaster. An outfielder, Kiner played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Cleveland Indians from 1946 through 1955. Following his retirement, Kiner served from 1956 through 1960 as general manager of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres.[1] He also served as an announcer for the New York Mets from the team's inception until his death. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner led all of his National League contemporaries in home runs between 1946 and 1952. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

Ralph Kiner
Kiner c. 1953
Left fielder
Born: (1922-10-27)October 27, 1922
Santa Rita, New Mexico, U.S.
Died: February 6, 2014(2014-02-06) (aged 91)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 12, 1946, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1955, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Batting average.279
Home runs369
Runs batted in1,015
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Vote75.41% (13th ballot)

After his death, baseball writer Marty Noble named Kiner "one of baseball's genuine and most charming gentlemen".[2]

Early life

Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, and raised in Alhambra, California. He was of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and Scots-Irish. He is the second cousin twice removed of Major League Baseball player for the New York Yankees, Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

World War II Service

Kiner served as a United States Navy pilot during World War II.[3]

Kiner was inducted into the Navy during the spring of 1943. As a cadet, he attended St. Mary's Pre-Flight School in California and earned his pilot's wings and commission at Corpus Christi, Texas, in December 1944. Kiner flew PBM Mariner flying boats on submarine patrols from Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station in Hawaii, accumulating 1,200 flying hours. Kiner enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor.[4][5]

Playing career (1946–1955)

Kiner made his major league debut on April 12, 1946, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished the season with 23 home runs, but 109 strikeouts. After the season, the Pirates convinced future Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg not to retire. Greenberg gave Kiner hours of instruction,[6] and in 1947, Kiner led the major leagues with 51 home runs while striking out fewer than 100 times.[7] Many of Kiner's homers were hit into a shortened left-field and left-center-field porch at Forbes Field (originally built for Greenberg and known in the press as "Greenberg Gardens"); the porch was retained for Kiner and redubbed "Kiner's Korner".[8] Kiner would later use "Kiner's Korner" as the title of his post-game TV show in New York.[2]

In 1949, Kiner topped his 1947 total with 54 home runs, falling just two short of Hack Wilson's then-National League record. It was the highest total in the major leagues from 1939 to 1960, and the highest National League total from 1931 to 1997. It made Kiner the first National League player with two 50 plus home run seasons. Kiner also matched his peak of 127 RBIs. From 1947 to 1951, Kiner topped 40 home runs and 100 RBIs each season. Through 2011 he was one of seven major leaguers to have had at least four 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons in their first five years, along with Chuck Klein, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Ryan Braun.[9][10]

Kiner's string of seasons leading the league in home runs reached seven in 1952, when he hit 37. This also was the last of a record six consecutive seasons in which he led Major League Baseball in home runs, all under the guidance of manager Billy Meyer and Pirate great Honus Wagner. He was selected to participate in the All-Star Game in six straight seasons, 1948 to 1953.[11]

The equally famous "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords," frequently misattributed to Kiner himself, was, by his own account, actually coined by teammate Fritz Ostermueller.[12][13] Footage of Kiner hitting a home run in Forbes Field can be seen in the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield.[14]

On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten-player trade. The Pirates traded Kiner, Joe Garagiola, George Metkovich, and Howie Pollet to the Cubs in exchange for Bob Addis, Toby Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, and $150,000.[15] This was largely due to continued salary disputes with Pirate general manager Branch Rickey, who reportedly told Kiner, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."[16]

Kiner played the rest of 1953 and all of 1954 with the Cubs, finishing his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1955. A back injury forced him to retire at the age of 32, finishing his career with 369 home runs, 1,015 runs batted in and a .279 lifetime batting average.[2] He hit better than .300 three times, with a career best .313 with the Pirates in 1947.

Broadcasting career (1961–2013)

Ralph Kiner was honored alongside the retired numbers of the New York Mets in 2014.
Kiner throws out a ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field, 2011.

In 1961, Kiner entered the broadcast booth for the Chicago White Sox. The following year, Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, and Bob Murphy began broadcasting the games of the expansion New York Mets on WOR-TV in New York City. The trio rotated announcing duties. Kiner also hosted a post-game show known as "Kiner's Korner" on WOR-TV. Nationally, he helped call the Mets' appearance in the 1969 and 1973 World Series for NBC Radio. He won a local Emmy Award for his broadcasting work.[16]

Kiner was known for his occasional malapropisms, usually connected with getting people's names wrong, such as calling broadcasting partner Tim McCarver as "Tim MacArthur" and calling Gary Carter "Gary Cooper".[16] He even once called himself "Ralph Korner".[17]

Despite a bout with Bell's palsy, which left him with slightly slurred speech,[18] Kiner continued broadcasting for 53 seasons.[19] Kiner's tenure with the Mets was the third-longest for an active broadcaster with a single team as of his final season. He is the third longest-tenured broadcaster in baseball history, trailing only Los Angeles Dodgers announcers Vin Scully (1950–2016) and Jaime Jarrín (1959–present). His traditional home run call—"It is gone, goodbye," was a signature phrase in baseball.

Kiner appeared occasionally on SportsNet New York (SNY) and WPIX, which currently televise Mets games. During these visits (usually once a week), regular announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling made room for Kiner as he shared stories of old-time baseball, as well as the current state of the game. During his final season in 2013, he was the oldest active announcer in Major League Baseball.

Personal life

Partly owing, as Kiner once said, to the fact that Hollywood megastar Bing Crosby was part-owner of the Pirates, Kiner was often closely linked with the likes of celebrities such as Crosby's colleague Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, but even more to publicized romances, dates or photos with leading ladies, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Janet Leigh.

Kiner was married four times; his first spouse was 1950s tennis star Nancy Chaffee, 1951–1968.[20][21]

Kiner was also married to Barbara (née George)[22] Kiner, from 1969 to 1980; and to DiAnn Kiner from 1982 until her death in 2004.[23][24]

In his 80s, Kiner married, then divorced, Ann Benisch.


Ralph Kiner died from natural causes in Rancho Mirage, California, on February 6, 2014, at the age of 91.[25] Upon his death, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon said "Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history—An original Met and extraordinary gentleman."[26] At the time of his death, Kiner was battling Bell's palsy, and the effects of a stroke he had suffered a decade ago that forced him to cut his schedule to a handful of games a season.[27]

On February 21, 2014, an online Twitter petition was started to rename Citi Field Sections 132–134 as Kiner's Korner, to commemorate the 52-year Mets career of Ralph Kiner.[28] As of March 29, 2014, the petition had over 5,000 followers.[29]


Ralph Kiner's number 4 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987.

Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.[30] Kiner had garnered 273 votes by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, one more than the minimum required for election. It was in his final year of eligibility (his 13th, as no vote was held in 1963 and 1965), and it was the closest call possible for any player elected by the BBWAA. (He would have had a chance later with the Veterans Committee had he not been elected by the BBWAA). Kiner was also the only player voted in that year.[31][32] He attended every Hall of Fame ceremony from the time he was inducted until his death.[2]

Kiner was elected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.[33]

The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his uniform number 4 on September 19, 1987.[34]

The Sporting News placed him at number 90 on its 1999 list of "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players,[35] and he was one of the 100 finalists for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team that year. The Mets honored him with an on-field ceremony on "Ralph Kiner Night" at Shea Stadium on Saturday, July 14, 2007. On that night, fans were given photos of Kiner. Tom Seaver was present, giving a commemorative speech recalling Kiner's legacy. Other guests of note were Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, and broadcaster Ernie Harwell. As a present from the Mets, Kiner received a cruise of his choice.[36]

In 2013, the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award honored Kiner as one of 37 Baseball Hall of Fame members for his service in the United States Navy during World War II.[37]

See also


  1. Weber, Bruce. "Ralph Kiner, Slugger Who Became a Voice of the Mets, Dies at 91". The New York Times. February 6, 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  2. Noble, Marty (February 6, 2014). "Kiner, Hall of Fame slugger, broadcaster, dies at 91". MLB.com. Major League Baseball. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  3. Corbett, Warren. "Ralph Kiner". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  4. Baseball’s World War II Aviators
  5. Ralph Kiner was a pilot before a Pirate
  6. Ruttman, Larry (2013). "Henry "Hank" Greenberg: Hall of Fame Infielder and Outfielder, Revealing the Survival of American Judaism Generation by Generation". American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball. Lincoln, Nebraska and London, England: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 23–29. ISBN 978-0-8032-6475-5.
  7. Baseball Digest, 1948, by Charles J. Doyle of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph.
  8. Ritter, Lawrence (1992). Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields. Penguin USA. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-14-023422-5.
  9. "Fascinating facts from Friday's games – MLB.com: News".
  10. Ryan Howard Statistics and History Baseball-Reference.com
  11. Ralph Kiner Statistics. Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  12. Johnson, Vince. "Once Over Lightly". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 7, 1949. Retrieved December 2, 2018. "Once, while Kiner was trying futilely to place his hits, old Fritz Ostermueller came through with a sage observation. 'Ralph,' he said, 'the right-hand batters who hit to right field are driving Fords. The right-hand batters who hit over the fence in left are driving Cadillacs.' Kiner, by the way, is driving a Cadillac."
  13. Kiner, Ralph; Peary, Danny. "BackTalk; The View From Kiner's Korner". The New York Times. April 4, 2004. Retrieved December 2, 2018. "Another quote that has been attributed to me is, 'Home-run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords.' That was actually first said by my Pirates teammate, pitcher Fritz Ostermueller."
  14. "For it's 1, 2, 3 angels out at the old... ball... game!". www.amazon.com.
  15. "Ralph Kiner traded to Cubs". Lodi News-Sentinel. June 4, 1953. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  16. Kupper, Mike (February 6, 2014). "Ralph Kiner dies at 91; Hall of Fame slugger with Pittsburgh Pirates". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  17. Taaffe, William (May 20, 1985). "Legends of the Err Waves". Sports Illustrated.
  18. Sandomir, Richard (March 12, 1999). "Kiner Signs A 2-Year Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  19. "Mets Broadcasters". MLB.com. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  20. Madden, Bill. "Ralph Kiner, Mets broadcasting legend and Hall of Fame Pirates player, dead at 91". NY Daily News. NYDailyNews.com. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  21. Perry, Dayn. "Photo of the Day: Ralph Kiner, ladies' man". CBS Sports.com. CBS Broadcasting Inc. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  22. Weber, Bruce (February 6, 2014). "Ralph Kiner, Slugger Who Became a Voice of the Mets, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  23. Barnes, Mike (February 6, 2014). "Ralph Kiner, New York Mets Broadcaster, Dies at 91". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  24. Kohn, Bob. "Ex-Pirates great Ralph Kiner dies at 91". TribLIVE Sports. Trib Total Media, Inc. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  25. Madden, Bill (February 6, 2014). "Ralph Kiner, Mets broadcasting legend and Hall of Fame Pirates player, dead at 91". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on February 7, 2014. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  26. Axisa, Mike (February 6, 2014). "Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner passes away at 91". CBS Sports.com. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  27. Satriano, David (February 6, 2014). "Mets legend Ralph Kiner dead at 91". The New York Post. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  28. Post Staff Report (March 1, 2014). "Fan pushes Mets to create 'Korner' to honor late broadcaster". The New York Post. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  29. Met Kiner's Korner | Twitter. Twitter.com. Retrieved on March 29, 2014.
  30. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Famer detail Archived September 1, 2007, at archive.today. Baseballhalloffame.org (October 27, 1922). Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  31. "National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: The Hall of Famers - Search Results". www.baseballhalloffame.org. Archived from the original on August 11, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  32. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Fame Vote Totals. Baseballhalloffame.org. Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  33. Mets Hall of Fame | mets.com: History. Newyork.mets.mlb.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  34. Pirates Retired Numbers | pirates.com: History. Pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2009.
  35. "100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News : A Legendary List by Baseball Almanac". Baseball Almanac.
  36. Heyman, Brian (July 15, 2007). "Kiner honored before Mets game". The Journal News.
  37. "WWII HOF Players". Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2022.


Further reading

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