Today is Ralph Kiner’s 89th birthday. How many people would have picked Kiner to be the last living member of the Mets’ original broadcasters?
Kiner seemed ancient when I was listening to him as a kid. He kind of reminded me of my dad that way. Neither dad nor Ralph could string a bunch of sentences together without butchering the English language. I didn’t understand how Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy could be so polished and Kiner could be so clumsy verbally.
Of course, I then figured out that Kiner was there not for his speaking ability but for the fact that he was a former major league player. And not just any player, as he was miles better than the typical ex-jock that broadcasts games today.
Kiner was not elected to the Hall of Fame until after I started listening to him, but that had more to do with the voters than anything wrong with Kiner’s candidacy. His detractors noted that Kiner did only two things well. However, if you’re going to excel at two things as a hitter, you’d be hard pressed to come up with better thing than home runs and walks, which is where Kiner made his bones.
One of Kiner’s favorite sayings was that home run hitters drove Cadillacs while singles hitters drove Fords. No doubt Kiner’s Caddy was as tricked out as they did back in the day, as he led the league in home runs for seven consecutive seasons.
While I did not appreciate Kiner fully when I was first exposed to him, I look forward to when he makes appearances in the booth today. Now I love his voice, although I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not so hung up on style or if it’s just that hearing him brings me back to the 1970s. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
An added bonus now is having Keith Hernandez defer to Kiner whenever they’re together in the booth. Don’t get me wrong – I love Keith – but it’s nice to have someone around with the credentials to look down on him every now and then. I think it’s actually cool that Hernandez is comfortable, someone else might say respectful, enough to give Kiner this type of tribute.
Now we just need Dave Hudgens to give Jason Bay and David Wright the link to Kiner’s Baseball-Reference page and then for Hudgens to tell them they’re going to do exactly what Kiner tells them to do until they start hitting 30 HR and drawing 100 BB on an annual basis. Of course, it would help if Bay and Wright could duplicate Kiner’s career mark of a 12.0 K%. Perhaps when he convinces them to stand closer to the plate they won’t whiff so much on the outside pitch…
Happy Birthday, Ralph, I hope you make it to 100.