We all heard the sad news yesterday that Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner died at his home in California. The 91 year passed away peacefully from natural causes with his family at his side.
The news of his death did bring tears to the eyes of many Bay Area residents because Kiner was such a fixture for so long at Spring Training.
Many knew him from his days a player with the Pirates as each year he would come to Bradenton. But it was as a color analyst for the New York Mets on then Superstation WOR TV that many generations came to know him. He came to St. Petersburg each year from 1962 till the team moved across state to Port St. Lucie in 1987.
It was in 1962 that Kiner started broadcasting the Mets games and his first broadcast for the team came live from Al Lang Field. He earned his niche as a master storyteller and student of the game. And his “Kiner’s Korner” postgame show, in which he interviewed the star of the game, became a New York TV baseball staple for four decades. He would have many partners, Bob Murphy, who started with him in 1962 was his partner for all 53 years.
Kiner became very well known both nationally as well as here in the Bay Area as a brodcaster. His was a fixture each year at the Governors Baseball Banquet, played in a number of charity golf tournaments in the area each spring and even threw out the first ball at a few Little League opening days both St. Petersburg and Tampa. His ability to tell a story always made him the hit of any event he was a part of during his visits each spring.
He would walk around Al Lang Field, signing autographs, having his pictures taken with fans or just spend time talking with people in the stands. Kiner loved to talk and baseball fans in the Bay Area loved to listen to him.
As a player he made the Hall of Fame in 1975 and he was known for power hitting, Kiner played 10 seasons in the big leagues from 1946-55, suiting up for the Pirates, Cubs and Indians. He retired as a .279/.398/.548 (149 OPS+) career hitter with 369 career home runs. Kiner led the league in homers in each of his first seven seasons and led MLB in homers six times. Kiner was a nice man and he will be missed by his many friends in this area. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.