Baseball HOFer RALPH KINER, whose "achievements in the batter’s box were obscured by his decades in the broadcast booth, where he was one of the game’s most recognizable personalities," died Thursday at the age of 91 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., according to a front-page piece by Bruce Weber of the N.Y. TIMES. Kiner "spent half a century with the Mets, enlivening their broadcasts with shrewd analysis, amiable storytelling and memorable malapropisms beginning with their woeful first season" in '62. His "genial, well-informed and occasionally tongue-twisted presence accompanied all of Mets history." Kiner in addition to his game broadcasts was the "host of the popular postgame interview show 'Kiner's Korner'" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes Kiner's "grasp of the game and unique gift for expression appealed to generations of Mets fans." What "endeared him to his audience was his ability to capture the essence of the sport in a concise, entertaining way." After five years as GM of the Padres while they were in the Pacific Coast League, Kiner "broadcast in 1961 for the White Sox." He "joined the expansion Mets a year later, along with LINDSEY NELSON and BOB MURPHY, forming an announcing team that stayed together for 17 years" (NEWSDAY, 2/7).
NOT SMOOTH, BUT A LEGEND: In N.Y., Gary Myers writes Kiner "may not have been the smoothest broadcaster, but his knowledge of the game and his insights -- tossed in with his malaprops -- made him extremely entertaining and a New York legend" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7). In Newark, Wolff & Fensom write Kiner gave the Mets franchise a "credibility it otherwise lacked." He was "vivid and sharp with his story telling and dissection of the game" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/7). In N.Y, Richard Sandomir writes Kiner was "the enduring Met," as VIN SCULLY "is the eternal Dodger." Kiner's "lack of pretension and his wit and amiability made 'Kiner’s Korner' ... required viewing, even if it looked like public access programming." Sandomir: "Inadvertently, he was a brilliant malapropist." Kiner was a "character, a bon vivant, and not an overly polished announcer, which was part of his charm." Mets ownership was "smart enough to keep Kiner, well after Bell’s palsy impaired his voice, and as his workload decreased" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). In N.Y., Mike Puma notes Kiner, who "spoke with slurred speech for the last decade ... had his workload reduced to about 15 games each season on SNY in recent years." But he was "still a revered figure” (N.Y. POST, 2/7). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes in Kiner's later years, he "kept on going in spite of the cruel remarks behind his back, the crass ridicule from fans and some in the broadcast business who once celebrated him." The words "may not have always come out right, but the mind was still nimble" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
FELT LIKE FAMILY: ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote listening to Kiner call a ballgame "was like listening to your grandfather call a ballgame, and so a place in front of a living room TV showing 'Kiner's Korner' always felt like the most comfortable seat in the world for a kid who cherished the game and the people who talked it" (ESPNNY.com, 2/6). In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes "Kiner's Korner" "lasted only 15 minutes, but filled a generation of memories" (Bergen RECORD, 2/7). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Kiner "preferred to watch and call ballgames, not to take them apart, dissect them, perform autopsies on them." He "wasn’t a homer, he was an observer, a cigar-blowing favorite uncle who could be reminded of someone or something he would be moved to talk about by any ground ball down either line" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). SPORTS ON EARTH's Howard Megdal writes Kiner's "staying power gave him decades of interacting with nearly every important baseball figure of the 20th century (plus a good chunk of the 21st), but he also had the intelligence to glean what mattered in the lives of those people, the significance of major events in those lives" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/7).