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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Awesomeness of Ralph Kiner (Cont'd)

Two facts of life become apparent every summer in these parts:

1) New York is a humid place.

2) Ralph Kiner is an awesome man.

You know that incessantly run Heineken Light commercial, the one in which the young-ish guy explains how he and his pal Jamie won $94 million in the lottery and relocated to some slice of paradise where sun-splashed retirement seems to be agreeing with everybody on camera, all of whom are “pretty awesome”?

Ralph Kiner belongs in that commercial, except he’s never exactly retired.

Still, I can see Ralph sitting around that table with Terry the sniper in the Big One and Maurice who dated not one but two Pointer Sisters. Ralph might have dated all four, including Bonnie who left the group to pursue a solo career. Shoot, we know he dated Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor.

Even if it wasn’t at the same time, that’s a world-class batting order.

Why choose a sweltering Tuesday in late June to celebrate Ralph Kiner? Why not? Is there a bad time? The Mets gave Ralph his own night three Julys ago. They can give him another one anytime and it would be perfectly appropriate.

Ralph rose to his rightful place in my consciousness once again on Sunday afternoon when he contributed six innings of analysis on SNY. He joined Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez in the Ralph Kiner Television Booth, which makes sense since Ralph pretty much owned the whole six innings right from the start.

The subject of off days came up immediately. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was giving one to two of his regulars, Justin Morneau, who was batting .346, and Jason Kubel, who had homered Saturday. It was hot, it was the end of a long road trip and there would be a game in Minneapolis on Monday night, but Ralph wasn’t having any of it.

Why would you ever want a day off? Ralph asked incredulously. He was incensed as I’ve ever heard him. It’s a game. Baseball’s a game. You don’t need a day off. Ralph, whose Hall of Fame career was limited to ten seasons by injury, probably wishes he had gotten to play more games. Not that he hasn’t kept busy for the past 55 or so years — these last 49 with us — but once a Hall of Fame player, always a Hall of Fame player.

Keith, who usually fills the role of vaguely aggrieved icon (and beautifully, I might add), gently attempted to counter that these days players tend to run down with all the pressures of modern life that take a toll on them — all of the airline travel, for example.

Talk about a pitch in Ralph’s wheelhouse.

Teams used to travel by train, Ralph reminded Keith and the rest of us. And the trains weren’t air conditioned.

Keith was humbled. So was I. Ralph Kiner rode on steamy, sweaty trains; led the National League in home runs seven consecutive seasons; twice (because of ties and a trade) played in more than the regulation 154 games; and still found the wherewithal to date Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor.

Ralph doesn’t really play the in-my-day card very often. He is loaded with anecdotes and remembrances, but it’s never been his style to force them on the conversation (though, admittedly, they do flow a little easier now than when he was a play-by-play man). He knows his baseball in the present tense and can analyze a swing from 2010 just as he might dissect one from 1950. But when he wants to, Ralph Kiner can let you know where he’s been and what he’s seen. It’s a blessed event when he does.

As for Keith…son, don’t mow Ralph’s lawn.

14 comments to The Awesomeness of Ralph Kiner (Cont’d)

  • Sometimes I feel that the younger Mets fan fails to realize the status that Ralph Kiner has in Mets history. The team will turn 50 next year and with the grace of God, Ralph will be with us for the Anniversary celebration.

    I loved when he asked where Keith Hernandez kept his Gold Gloves and Keith rambled about having them in his basement and said when he dies no one will care where they are, to which Kiner told him “your too nasty to die” I’m sure Gary and Keith hit the “kill” button as to not burst out laughing on the air.

  • and he’s right. When I read stories about the older days of baseball, I laugh at the storylines today.

    The funny thing is, when players are given a day off, the only part they usually take off is that actual part that matters. I imagine many of them still taking BP, still work out, still show up to the park on time. That’s not a day off.

    Supposedly they rerouted the train for the (23?) World Series between St. Louis and NY so that it would only take 24 hours to travel. Nowadays that’s an airconditioned 3 hour flight on a private airplane.

    Kiner always adds a ton to the broadcasts. We’re lucky to have him and will miss him when he’s gone.

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  • mikeinbrooklyn

    Me and Ralph have the same birthday! Unfortunately, this is the greatest accomplishment of my life. (also, John Cleese)

  • Charlie

    God bless Ralph Kiner. I got to know him in the late 60’s/early 70’s via WOR on cable TV in northwest PA before I learned he was a Pirates icon. May he long brighten the New York airwaves.

    Charlie (currently still an unrepentant Phillies fan)

  • Andee

    I don’t know if I mentioned this here before, but sorry for the repetition if I have. I saw Jim Bouton and Spaceman Lee at a book-signing event a few years ago, and they said the difference between today’s pitchers and those in “their day” (a bit later than Kiner’s, but still long before the Players’ Association had such clout) is that “today’s pitchers are treated like thoroughbred horses. We were farm animals.” I’d have to think the same would be true of position players. Use ’em up, toss ’em out, there’s more where they came from. (They were also much more used to managers routinely insulting them; remember in Seasons in Hell, when Whitey Herzog said of the 1973 Rangers, “If Rich Billings is our catcher this year, we’re in deep trouble,” and Billings, told of Herzog’s remarks, simply nodded and said, “Obviously, Whitey has seen me play”?)

    • Because this is a family blog, I won’t repeat Whitey Herzog’s assessment of Pete Broberg in Seasons in Hell, but I don’t know if I ever laughed as hard at anything in a book in my life.

  • Joe D.

    Ralph is an uncle to all us original new breeders. And he was right to get on Keith – in “his” day, players even had to pay for their own sandwiches between games of a doubleheader.

    • Guy Kipp

      Ralph didn’t even mention more day games, flannel uniforms with no mesh and more doubleheaders. Those things would have only buttressed his point.

  • Since the broadcast booths are in such a public view, I really wish the Mets would label them with nice lettering on the outside for everyone in the stands to see.

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