Ralph McPherran Kiner (born October 27, 1922) is an American former Major League Baseball player and has been an announcer for the New York Mets since the team's inception. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner's tremendous slugging outpaced nearly all of his National League contemporaries between the years 1946 and 1954. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Kiner made his major league debut on April 12, 1946, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished the season with 23 home runs, but 109 strikeouts. After the season, the Pirates convinced future Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg not to retire. Greenberg gave Kiner hours of instruction, and in 1947, Kiner led the major leagues with 51 home runs while striking out less than 100 times. Many of Kiner's homers were hit into a shortened left-field and left-center-field porch at Forbes Field (originally built for Greenberg and known in the press as "Greenberg Gardens"); the porch was retained for Kiner and redubbed "Kiner's Korner". Kiner would later use "Kiner's Korner" as the title of his post-game TV show in New York.
His string of seasons leading the league in home runs reached seven in 1952, when he hit 37. This also was the last of a record six consecutive seasons in which he led Major League Baseball in home runs, all under the guidance of manager Billy Meyer and Pirate great Honus Wagner. He was selected to participate in the All-Star Game in six straight seasons, 1948 to 1953. He holds (by himself) the major league record of eight home runs in four consecutive multi-homer games, a mark that he set in September 1947.
A quote variously attributed to Kiner himself, as well as to teammates talking about Kiner, was "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs and singles hitters drive Fords." Footage of Kiner hitting a homer in Forbes Field can be seen in the 1951 film "Angels in the Outfield.
On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten-player trade. This was largely due to continued salary disputes with Pirate general manager Branch Rickey, who reportedly told Kiner, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."
Kiner played the rest of 1953 and all of 1954 with the Cubs, finishing his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1955. A back injury forced his retirement at the age of 32, with 369 home runs, 1019 runs batted in and a .279 lifetime batting average.
Kiner was known for his occasional malapropisms, usually connected with getting people's names wrong, such as calling broadcasting partner Tim McCarver as "Tim MacArthur" and calling Gary Carter "Gary Cooper". He even once called himself "Ralph Korner".
Despite a bout with Bell's palsy, which left him with slightly slurred speech, Kiner is still broadcasting, entering his 52nd year of doing Mets broadcasts as of the start of the 2013 baseball season, though only as an occasional guest analyst. He is the only broadcaster to survive all of the Mets history; Nelson had left the Mets for the San Francisco Giants in 1979, and Murphy retired in 2003. (Nelson died in 1995 and Murphy in 2004.) Kiner's tenure with the Mets is the third-longest for an active broadcaster with a single team, trailing only those of Los Angeles Dodgers announcers Vin Scully (1950–present) and Jaime Jarrín (1959–present). His traditional home run call -- "It is gone, goodbye" or "That ball is gone, goodbye"—is a signature phrase in baseball.
Kiner appears occasionally on SportsNet New York (SNY) and WPIX, which currently televise Mets games. During these visits (usually once a week), regular announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling make room for Kiner as he shares stories of old-time baseball, as well as the current state of the game. As of the 2013 season, he is the oldest active announcer in Major League Baseball.
Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. Kiner had garnered 273 votes by the Baseball Writers Association, one more than the minimum required for election. It was in his final year of eligibility (his 13th, as no vote was held in 1963 and 1965), and it was the closest call possible for any player elected by the BBWAA. (He would have had a chance later with the Veteran's Committee had he not been elected by the BBWAA). Kiner was also the only player voted in that year.