Last week we celebrated Ralph Kiner the player. Today we talk about Kiner the play-by-play man and color commentator, who on this date in 1962 signed up to join Bob Murphy and Lindsay Nelson in the Mets’ broadcast booth. Ralph brought a keen player’s insight to the proceedings, and regaled viewers and listeners with anecdotes of baseball greats (and not-so-greats) from the past.
Ninety-year-old Kiner, who still makes occasional visits to the TV booth that bears his name, is most fondly treasured for his malapropos, or “Kinerisms” as they have come to be known. Here are a few classics:
- “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.”
- “It’s Father’s Day today at Shea, so to all you fathers out there, happy birthday.”
- “All of the Mets’ wins on the road against Los Angeles this year have come at Dodger Stadium.”
- “All of his saves have come in relief appearances.”
- “The Mets have gotten their leadoff hitter on base only once in this inning.”
- “It’s a long fly ball to center field … and it’s going foul.” (Or, “It’s going, going, going … to be caught.")
He was also known to call Gary Carter alternately Gary Cooper or Jimmy Carter, once introduced Tim McCarver as Tim MacArthur, and never seemed quite sure if the player at bat was Mookie (Wilson) or Hubie (Brooks).
For years he also hosted the post-game interview show “Kiner’s Korner.” One of his own favorite memories of that program was this exchange from the ’60s with catcher Choo Choo Coleman:
Kiner: What’s your wife’s name and what’s she like?
Coleman: Her name’s Mrs. Coleman and she likes me.
(If you want a real treat, go to YouTube and check out his extended rain-delay chat with comedian and Mets fan George Carlin.)
Kiner has yet to be honored with the Ford C. Frick Award, which is, for some unknown reason, limited to only one baseball broadcaster per year. We hope that this oversight will be corrected ASAP so Ralph can have his name on the same plaque in the Hall of Fame as Nelson and Murphy.
Happy 55th birthday to Rafael Santana, starting shortstop for the 1986 World Championship Mets. That team’s lineup was so strong one-through-seven that it could afford to keep Raffie and his .539 OPS around for defense. He was steady and sure-handed, with average range and an arm good enough to “get ’em by a step” nearly every time.
Bob Apodaca, who turns 63 today, was a reliable reliever and spot starter for the Mets from 1974–1978. His best season was 1975, in which he saved 13 games in 14 opportunities while posting a 1.49 ERA. He was also an effective pitching coach under Bobby Valentine until early June 1999. With the Mets falling below .500 in the middle of a series against the Yankees and the starting rotation having rung up an ERA of well over 5.00 through the first third of the season, GM Steve Phillips axed Apodaca and two other coaches.
On this, the occasion of Nolan Ryan’s 66th birthday, we choose not to wring our hands over one of the worst trades in Mets history, but rather applaud the miracle that allowed the Amazins to have had him in their possession in the first place. You see, the man who entered the Hall of Fame with the second highest percentage of votes in history — 98.79, just 0.05 lower than that of Tom Seaver — was a 12th-round draft pick, 295th overall, in the June 1965 Amateur Draft. The Mets saw a higher ceiling for the likes of Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew, and Les Rohr, and 19 other teams showed little interest.
Jackie Robinson would have been 94 today. The next time you visit Citi Field, stop and take a few moments to appreciate the tribute to this true baseball pioneer as you pass through the rotunda that is named in his honor.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Sharing a birthday today are actresses Jessica Walter, 72, and Portia de Rossi, 40. Go ahead, fans…make your own snarky “Arrested Development” 2013 Mets reference here.