Hall of Fame outfielder and longtime broadcaster Ralph Kiner passed away Thursday at him California home.
The former slugger played ten years in the Majors, collecting 369 home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For an unthinkable (and record) seven straight seasons, Kiner led the National League in home runs. Following his stellar career, the slugger entered the broadcast booth…calling games for the New York Mets since their inception in 1962 until 2006.
“With the passing of Ralph Kiner, the baseball world has lost one of its greatest ambassadors and the Hall of Fame has lost a wonderful friend,” Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Jane Forbes Clark said. “Ralph spent eight decades as a player, executive and broadcaster. He was a man who truly loved our National Pastime and made it better in every way. His legacy will live forever in Cooperstown.”
In 1975, his final year on the ballot, Kiner was voted into the Hall of Fame. His 273 votes (or 75.4%) was one more than the minimum needed for induction and, suffice it to say, still represents the slimmest margin ever by someone elected.
“As one of baseball's most prolific power hitters for a decade, Ralph struck fear into the hearts of the best pitchers of Baseball's Golden Era despite his easy-going nature, disarming humility and movie-star smile,” Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum added. “His engaging personality and profound knowledge of the game turned him into a living room companion for millions of New York Mets fans who adored his game broadcasts and later 'Kiner's Korner' for more than half a century. He was as comfortable hanging out in Palm Springs with his friend Bob Hope as he was hitting in front of Hank Greenberg at Forbes Field.”
Kiner's time off the field was as memorable as his brief time on it. After his playing days, the former slugger was a regular on the Hollywood scene, golfing with the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny and on the arm of starlets Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor.
"I've been a very fortunate man," Kiner wrote in his 1987 autobiography. "My earliest desires to be a Major League ballplayer were satisfied and the second half of my life has been even more thrilling than the first."
Kiner was 91.