Every Mets fan grew up with Ralph Kiner.
Understand: This is a special thing. No other franchise in baseball could say that all of their fans—every one of them—shared something like this. The Mets are just old enough to have a legacy that spans several generations and just young enough to have that legacy united by a single person.
A Mets fan in 2014 might have no memories of Tom Seaver or Jerry Koosman or Tommie Agee. They might not have a connection to the Mets of Doc Gooden and Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez. They might not have any attachment to the Mets of Mike Piazza. But they would know Ralph Kiner.
Ralph Kiner was no more than a voice to most of us but a voice is no small thing. When you heard Ralph Kiner's voice it meant a warm Sunday afternoon and green grass and a crowd roaring. It meant this to you if you if the crowd was roaring at the Polo Grounds or Shea Stadium or Citi Field. It meant this to you if you had grown up watching Buddy Harrelson or David Wright or any player in between. It didn't matter how long you'd been alive or in what framework you placed your fandom. Ralph Kiner had been talking to you your whole life.
When Ralph Kiner would talk to you on WOR-9 or WPIX-11 or Fox Sports or SNY he would tell you about all the Mets players and all the Mets drama and joy and heartache you missed due to the timing of your birth. He had been there for every single minute of it. He could talk about his own playing days and the legends he played alongside without bothering to mention his own status as a legend. He could tell you all these things you had no chance to see and you could feel like you had seen them yourself. You could feel like time hadn't passed at all.
But time is cruel and time does pass. Ralph Kiner passed his time on this earth in grander fashion than most of us could dream of. Served as a navy pilot in World War II and lived to tell the tale (though he very rarely spoke of his service publicly). Led the National League in home runs his first seven years in the majors. Slugged more homers per at bat than anyone not named Babe Ruth until the offensive explosion of the 1990s. Dated Elizabeth Taylor. Landed a gig broadcasting games for a brand new baseball franchise in New York. Kept it for 52 years.
We haven't lost Ralph Kiner. The ones who truly lost him aren't with us yet. The next generation of Mets fans will be the first to grow up in a world without him. They will have no one to compare Ike Davis to Marv Throneberry or point out parallels between Matt Harvey and Jon Matlack. They will feel the gulf of time so much more than we ever had to.