The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Ralph Kiner, Original and Forever

Y’know, I had just been thinking about Ralph Kiner. This was before the Super Bowl, when I read Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald wouldn’t be covering the game at MetLife Stadium. Pope, you see, had never missed a Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is still young enough so there are people who can said to have been directly involved with all of them. The Roman numerals would keep accumulating: X…XX…XXX. Players and coaches and commissioners came and went, but a critical mass of those charged with reporting it to us would reappear year after year. By the IVth decade, however, the ranks of orginals and forevers began to thin noticeably. That’s just how the flipping of calendar pages works.

Every few Januarys in recent years, I’d come across an article about the group of writers who’d covered each and every one of pro football’s championships from 1967 forward and was about to cover another. Their numbers couldn’t help but dwindle as time went by. With Pope missing Super Bowl XLVIII, the corps was down to three, including, I learned last week, two from our vicinity: Jerry Izenberg and Dave Klein, both from New Jersey, and Jerry Green, out of Detroit.

Those guys and their constancy made me think of Ralph Kiner, specifically how Ralph Kiner, 53 years into the franchise’s history, was the only person you could be sure was affiliated with the New York Mets when they started and remained affiliated with them throughout. For the longest time growing up with the Mets, you’d hear this person or that person had been there from the beginning. It wasn’t all that unusual for a while. Then it became a badge of genuine longevity. Bob Mandt. Pete Flynn. Bob Murphy, quite obviously. And Ralph Kiner.

Retirements. Illnesses. Deaths. But Ralph Kiner was still a part of the Mets every year. He was 1962 and 1969, 1973 and 1986, 1999 and maybe a dozen day games right up to the very present. He was Ralph Kiner, voice of the New York Mets when they were new, when they were grand, when they were atrocious, when they were there no matter what. Ralph was there no matter what. Not like he used to be, maybe, but just enough so you didn’t have to imagine he wouldn’t be.

Nobody was more original. Nobody was more forever.

Ralph Kiner will not be dropping by the booth in 2014. I want to say he’s unavailable and leave it at that. It’s too tough to believe, even after he lived 91 years, that the Mets go on without him. There’s never been the Mets without Ralph Kiner calling their games or, per his more recent part-time role, interrupting them. The Ralph of whom we were treated to select innings in the SNY era was the dandiest of intermittent presences. He was a baseball sage who could address any element his partners steered his way, and in doing so, he transported his audience to bundle after bundle of games, years and personalities that nobody else was telling us about anymore. It was a gift he kept on giving, and knowing that the gifts wouldn’t always pile up under the baseball tree made them that much more precious when we were lucky enough to receive them.

Before SNY, before MSG, before FSNY and before SportsChannel usurped most of the function that Channel 9 served, he was Ralph Kiner, voice of the Mets. Ralph with Tim McCarver and Steve Zabriskie on TV. Ralph, of course, with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, switching between TV and radio for 17 fraternal-triplet seasons. Ralph with others along the way, too. And Ralph, quite naturally, with the star of the game coming up right after the game on Kiner’s Korner. But always Ralph.

Eternally Ralph.

Ralph Kiner, Gary Cohen once calculated, had to have dispensed more autographs than any man alive. Ralph Kiner, as far as I can fathom, enhanced the expertise and experience of more Mets fans than anybody who ever lived, maybe anybody who will ever live. Ralph played it straight, balls-and-strikeswise. Ralph danced among the malapropisms that, for an amiable stretch, became his unwitting signature. Ralph analyzed swings and held forth on hitting. Ralph told and retold stories. Ralph didn’t necessarily kiss and tell, but it was pretty clear fate puckered up when it saw him making his way from Southern California to Pittsburgh to, eventually, us.

Ralph embraced us and embellished our baseball-loving lives while he was here. His statistical standing among all-time power producers may have fallen when homers became commodities rather than events, but when it came to grace and class and style and solid-gold professionalism, Ralph Kiner never vacated his spot atop the charts.

Now and then it would be pointed out Ralph hit home runs at rates almost unmatched in the annals of slugging and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of his prodigious skills. It was almost like finding out your parents used to have this whole other life. “You mean you were somebody before I was born?” Oh, Ralph was somebody, all right. And he remained somebody, a whole other transcendent Met figure that seemed to materialize independent of what he accomplished as a Pirate, a Cub and an Indian.

He could’ve rested on the laurels of being Ralph Kiner and made hay that way. But instead of being impressed with himself, he transmitted the Mets to us first and foremost. He looked to the plate and described Richie Ashburn and Cleon Jones and Lee Mazzilli and Darryl Strawberry and Bobby Bonilla and Mike Piazza and David Wright. He peered out to the mound and let us know the situations facing Roger Craig and Jerry Koosman and Craig Swan and Dwight Gooden and David Cone and Al Leiter and Johan Santana. He processed the thinking of Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges and Yogi Berra and Joe Torre and Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine and Terry Collins. He shared air time with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson and Steve Albert and Art Shamsky and Lorn Brown and Tim McCarver and Steve Zabriskie and Fran Healy and Rusty Staub and Gary Thorne and Howie Rose and Ted Robinson and Dave O’Brien and Tom Seaver and Gary Cohen and Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez.

He interviewed every big star for generations or, more accurately, every big star got to be interviewed by him. He made every scrub with whom he crossed paths look and feel like a king for a day.

Because of what he did, how long he did it and how well he did it, Ralph Kiner, as much as anybody, made me the Mets fan that I am today and figure I always will be. I’m guessing he did something similar for you.

46 comments to Ralph Kiner, Original and Forever

  • Lenny65

    A sad day for Mets fans and for baseball as a whole. Ralph is going to be sorely missed, it was always so great to tune into some random game and find out that he was doing a few innings that day. We’ll miss you Mr. Kiner…RIP.

    • Lenny65

      Remember how he’d call enemy home runs with that slightly disappointed inflection in his voice? I can hear it like it was yesterday. “Going going gone goodbye”.

  • Inside Pitcher

    He did indeed sign a great number of autographs –

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/12352207053/

    RIP to the last remaining voice of my youth.

  • TJHinNYC

    Absolutely the best. I hope all the younger fans appreciated Ralph’s great stories and incomparable baseball insights.

    As mentioned above, he will be sorely missed.

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Kiner.

  • dak442

    What a privilege it was for us to have Ralph talking to us for so long. He will be greatly missed.

  • He lived a full life but it’s going to be hard to follow a season knowing he will not be around to have an opinion or random anecdote about another time. Rest in peace, Ralph, and thanks for the stories.

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    Kiners Korner….a piece of early Mets history!….

    • Lenny65

      Damn straight, I used to love watching the Korner after Mets games on channel 9. In fact, it was kind of a quintessential channel 9 show of the era: low-budget yet awesome in its own Kiner-ian way. I recall seeing every single NL star of the 1970’s on KK at one time or another back when I was living and breathing baseball…Rose, Bench, Schmidt, Garvey…you name it. But obviously the best ones were after Met victories when he’d have the likes of John Pacella or Doug Flynn on…Ralph was truly one of a kind…those jackets, the classic malaprops and of course the encyclopedic baseball memory. He may never have played a single game as a Met but he was blue & orange to his core.

  • Baseball Oogie

    I’m just in shock.

    RIP, and condolences to his family.

  • mazinmets9

    Kiner …gone. ..goodbye:(

    My Deepest condolences to the mets family and kiner’s family.his silence in the booth will be deafening. rip mr. kiner :(

  • Dave

    My sadness on learning that we’ll never again hear Ralph’s explanation of the game’s nuances or his seemingly endless, enormously entertaining stories is similar to what I felt on 9/28/08…that something beloved that had, from my baseball experience, always been there, won’t be anymore. We can all list 1001 reasons why being a Mets fan might suck, but we can all be forever grateful that being a Mets fan (especially those of us of a certain age) has meant that we got to learn the game by listening to Ralph Kiner. There are other fans rewarded by more wins and HOF’ers and victory parades, but we had Ralph and no one else did. Can’t ever take that away from us.

  • […] Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing: “Ralph Kiner was still a part of the Mets every year. … Nobody was more original. Nobody was more forever. … Kiner, as much as anybody, made me the Mets fan that I am today and figure I will always be.” >> More […]

  • Dennis

    Ralph was the last one standing of the best team that ever announced baseball games. A true gentleman and ambassador of this game. Kiner’s Korner was classic like the man himself (who can forget “Gary Cooper”?). He will truly be missed. RIP Ralph.

  • metsfaninparadise

    I like to be original but today it’s enough to acknowledge I’m part of a huge grieving community, many of whom have already said most of what I was going to say. Ralph Kiner–going, going, gone, goodbye.

  • […] favorite pieces on Ralph today: Greg Prince: Ralph Kiner, Original and Forever Marty Noble: “He traveled on the high road exclusively.” Baseball Hall of Famer Ralph […]

  • kjs

    An old baseball friend. Since 1970 and Bud’s suprisingly fast start at the dish. Didn’t last. But Ralph Kiner has. Forever. A sad day. RIP, Ralph. You are already missed.

  • RICHIE

    Greg…..
    This is simply a perfect piece of heartfelt journalism. Perfect…..
    You capture the essence of what Mr. Kiner meant to the Met’s community. He was an institution and will be missed by everyone. R.I.P…
    Thank you!

  • […] Greg Prince is far more eloquent that I can pretend to be tonight, so I’m going to quote from his post today and send you to read the rest at Faith and Fear in Flushing: […]

  • Stan

    Two things I want to see in 2014.

    The Mets wear a uniform patch honoring Ralph Kiner all year.

    Next to the retired numbers and “Shea” in the outfield, there should be three more pinstriped circles. “Nelson”, “Murphy”, “Kiner”, with microphones in place of the numbers.

  • Hector

    Nice piece, as was the piece from last August. Thanks for articulating what a lot of us are feeling.

  • […] Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing: “Ralph Kiner was still a part of the Mets every year. … Nobody was more original. Nobody was more forever. … Kiner, as much as anybody, made me the Mets fan that I am today and figure I will always be.” >> More […]

  • Patrick

    What Hector said.

  • Andee

    I knew you would have the best tribute. Happy Father’s Day, Ralph.

  • […] know a lot more about Ralph Kiner than I do and they can write about him way better than me (like here, here or here). I’ll give it a shot […]

  • If Metsopotamia is in a state of morning (oh, and it definitely is), I cannot think of a more perfect eulogy. I knew I’d have to read what FAFIF had to say about the great Ralph Kiner, gone from us after both a long life and what seems too soon.

    Thanks for this, Greg.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I feel like I’ve lost an uncle I grew up with. Thanks for mirroring our collective memories.

    • Will in Central NJ

      I might add that I’ll always fondly remember the 1971 Mets Yearbook as shown occasionally on SNY-TV. That’s the edition that shows Ralph Kiner (wearing a Mets uniform) as the Instructional League coach, giving tips to Ken Singleton and others.

      Knowing how Singleton’s career as a hitter turned out, I’d say Kiner’s instruction was quite valuable. Rest in Peace, Uncle Ralph.

  • dmg

    what everyone said. on this sad day, thanks so much.

  • Dave P.

    Thank you, Greg. I was born on Oct. 16, 1962. Seven years later, same date, the Mets beat the Orioles in Game 5. I figured I’d be getting that kind of a present every year. Still, even 1977 couldn’t shake my love of this team. Every day, either on radio or TV I’d listen to Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy. I’d even watch Kiner’s Korner on the days they lost. The show’s music, the set, the way the players looked (so much less media savvy then, sometimes a little slumped in the chair, hot and tired, not a lot different than the high school kid some of them had been not too long before–except for Seaver, of course). And Ralph. Something about him. You knew he’d been a player–you could tell the players he interviewed knew it, too. They actually talked about the game. About pitches and hits and why a play went this way instead of that way. I know I’m viewing it through a lens made fuzzy by time and nostalgia, but those broadcasts–from the moment Lindsey came on with his crazy sports jacket through to the end of Kiner’s Korner–were beautiful things.
    Thanks, Lindsey. Thanks, Bob. And thank you, Ralph McPherran Kiner.

  • DJK

    He will be missed. RIP.

  • Howie Rose

    Greg….You are an outstanding writer. That was an absolutely beautiful piece.

  • Seth

    It’s hard to believe that as recently 11 years ago, we still had both Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner with us. The Mets’ world will never be the same…

  • Here’s a little factoid which will come as no surprise whatsoever to our Mr. Prince…

    My dad used to bump into Ralph Kiner at Toots Shor’s semi-regularly in the odd off-season.

  • rich porricelli

    It is like a death in the family..A truly loved relation and relationship..He was around so long that he reminds me of more than just my youth and the teams!..Maybe its all the snow and ice of this winter that makes me long for that first pitch- but it will never be the same without him, even if its just a cameo…

    PS.. the Mets won the 86 series on his birthday..

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Didn’t think you would mind my sharing the thoughts I spoke about with you privately with the rest of the FAFIF faithful. Apologies for it being a little bit lengthy but considering its about Ralph, didn’t think you or Jason would mind in this case.

    – —

    The passing of Ralph is very personal for me too, not because I ever had the pleasure of meeting him but because like for so many others, his loss closes a chapter of my life for me. Though there are still living members from that 1962 club and many original new breeders still out there, Ralph (along with Bob and Lindsey) was so much a part of that living link to my past which is now forever broken. It’s like Don McLean when he went back to the sacred store but was told that the music wouldn’t play there any more.

    The loss of Ralph is shared by all of us but it’s even sadder for those around my age (62) and were thus the “original” new breeders. The Mets didn’t belong to anybody else before us. They were ours first. I was not quite eleven when they came into existence and was at my initial stage of starting to develop my own sense of whom I was. So for many of us, we were starting out together – and how many get to begin their first of many comings of age given the gift of a brand new baseball team starting from rock bottom and somehow finding it also represented the inferiorities that were indeed not recognized but ever so present inside of them nevertheless that we later found were shared by so many of us youngsters at the time in which attracted us to the Mets (being different, not as good as the others, parents not having the money like others, etc). In retrospect, it was more than just a ball club. It was like suddenly having a new younger sibling, like another member of the family to grow up with and share all those feelings with and slowly shed as we grew older.

    That’s why I believe there is a segment of original new breeders out there probably feeling a bit more sadder today than just the loss of Ralph. Though fortunately just an analogy, I am willing to guess it feels like mourning the loss of the little brother or sister whom we grew up with, whom we took care of since they were babies, playing with them, protecting them from bullies, giving them the benefit of our older “wisdoms”, going through high school and college, dating, marriage and sharing getting older with together.

    Never thought I would have such mixed up feelings yesterday as I have today. And again, I sense there are some others who are looking at things introspectively and coming to the same conclusion as well.

    • Seth

      So well put, Joe. I knew we didn’t have much longer with Ralph, yet I’m surprised at how hard his loss has hit me. It’s also coincided with the 20th anniversary of the loss of my dad, so it was a rough week. :-|

      For those of us around our age, it’s a particularly tough loss because Ralph was a living link to the history of the Mets, and baseball. A connection to the past is important to the sport of baseball, since the game is all about numbers. I feel like we’ve been left on our own to brave a future that does not include first-hand stories about the legends of the game — Frankie Frisch, Branch Rickey, Choo Choo Coleman — and others, too numerous to list.

      For those of us who grew up listening to Lindsey, Ralph, and Bob, this hurts more because Ralph was the last of the three. There may be someone else in the organization that’s been with the Mets since day 1, but no one like Ralph, who provided the soundtrack to the Mets when we were young.

      I wasn’t ready to sever that connection. I really could have used a few more stories. One or two more years. Sadly, it’s not meant to be. I really can’t imagine a season of Mets baseball without Ralph — what on earth will we do?

  • Ed Rising

    Greg, thank you for a beautiful tribute. This hurts to lose Ralph, though we all knew it would happen someday. Ralph was precious to us Mets fans and while he wasn’t as smooth as Vin Scully or some of the other great old time broadcasters – he had his own unique style. He was ours in the same fashion as Shea Stadium was ours.

    Bob Raissman for the Daily News wrote a wonderful article yesterday focusing on Ralph’s battling Bells Palsey and how he refused to hide away and continued his broadcasting career because he loved the game and the Mets. Ralph has been an inspiration to many with a handicap or even just facing any challenge and not being afraid to carry on irregardless of any worts that may show.

    From listing and watching Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner, I learned that as a fan to have unconditional love for my Mets. I thank them for this gift. Now they are all gone and we have lost another member of our family. RIP Ralph, God bless you.

  • […] Over at Fear and Faith in Flushing (perhaps my favorite baseball blog on the Internet), Greg Prince writes about Kiner and his impact on Mets fans. […]

  • JerseyJack

    Tuff week for me- first my dad passed away ,after a week in the hospital & then hospice care for 3 days, then Ralph passed away . They were the same age, too …

  • TJ

    Greg,
    Wonderfully said.