(I hope you excuse the stupid pun in the headline. The way you pronounce “Kiner” in English would give this the meaning of “one of a kind”)
I probably first heard the name Ralph Kiner when I started to watch baseball again in 2007. While is was following the Red Sox season because of Daisuke Matsuzaka, I somehow always found myself attracted to the Mets broadcast. They were playing a nice season, too. Looking like they were making the playoffs. I won’t go any deeper on that topic though.
Anyway, during some Mets games there was this old men with the guys in the booth and, honestly, at first, being a baseball noobie without any knowledge of the game whatsoever, I found him a bit annoying. Not being a native speaker of English it’s always hard to follow what’s being said on air, but that old man was tough to listen to.
Still, over the years while I was getting to know the Mets and their history better, I found out that this old man was explaing the game to me in a way that none of the other broadcasters could. Because he was talking from experience. Experiences he made in the past while playing the game himself. He became a link to baseball’s wonderful past, talking about players who played before the war, players who were long retired, connecting them to the players he saw on the field before him while watching the game. What made Mr Kiner so special to Mets fans was that he was there rom the very beginning in 1962. Not a lot of franchises can say that.
I like baseball, because it is a game that connects eras and generations. While football in Germany has a long and storied history of its own, it just doesn’t compare to what baseball is like. And while there are a lot of retired football players as pundits on TV over here, none even come close to what Mr Kiner did.
When the news of his passing broke yesterday evening it was amazing to see the affection of the people who watched him on TV, worked with him as journalists or simply were Mets fans. I think, this is something this franchise can be really proud of. Their broadcasters. While there have been great players on the Mets, I somehow always get the feeling that a lot of Mets fans love their team a lot more because there are great people explaing the games for them. Now I never was able to listen to Ralph, Bob and Lindsey, I never watched Kiner’s Korner, I never was able to see Tim McCarver and Mr Kiner team up, I never listened to Gary Thorne on the radio. All I know is Gary, Keith and Ron on TV and Howie and Josh on the radio. But if you just read those names, It’s like a broadcasting hall of fame. And that’s something, I guess, Mets fans are really proud of. And they should be.
With all that being said, I do not want to forget that Mr Kiner was a terrific player who, despite having to end his career because of an injury after only 10 years, put up insane numbers.
I hope the Mets will find a way to honour Mr Kiner properly during the next season and beyond. Someone suggested to name Citi Field’s left field corner Kiner’s Korner. That would be fitting.