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Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner dies at 91

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2014 at 7:44 pm •  Published: February 6, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Ralph Kiner was a smash as a slugger, launching so many home runs over the left-field wall at old Forbes Field that fans nicknamed it his corner.

Years later, as one of baseball's most beloved broadcasters, he became a big hit in a new "Kiner's Korner."

Kiner, the Hall of Famer whose frequent malaprops endeared him to New York Mets listeners for more than a half-century, died Thursday. He was 91.

The Hall of Fame said Kiner died at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., with his family at his side.

"He was a jewel," Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver said.

Kiner hit 369 home runs during a 10-year career cut short by back problems. He debuted with Pittsburgh in 1946 and won or tied for the National League lead in homers in each of his first seven seasons.

He was popular off the field, too. His Hollywood pals included Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, he squired Liz Taylor and Janet Leigh, and he played himself in the 1951 film "Angels in the Outfield."

Kiner became a Mets announcer in their expansion season of 1962, working 17 years as a trio with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson. Kiner called their games for 52 years in all, including a handful of them last season.

Kiner was already a fixture on the Mets' airwaves when he was inducted into the Hall in 1975. He was elected with just one vote to spare in his 15th and final year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

The six-time All-Star outfielder still ranks sixth all-time with a home run every 14.1 at-bats. He averaged more than 100 RBIs per season and hit .279 with the Pirates, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland.

When he retired, Kiner was sixth on the career home run list.

To generations of TV viewers and radio listeners, his postcareer acclaim was as great as the honors he earned on the field.

"Kiner's Korner" was a delight for players and fans alike, where stars would join Kiner for postgame chats.

"I loved going on 'Kiner's Korner.' I enjoyed talking baseball with Ralph, especially learning about players from his era," former Mets star Dwight Gooden said. "But what really made it special was every time you went on, you got a $100. For a rookie like me in 1984, a $100 was a big deal."

Kiner was known for tripping over his own words, and often laughed about his own comments.

"If Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave," he once commented after a misplay.

"On Father's Day, we again wish you all a happy birthday," he also said.

Then there was the time Gary Carter hit a winning home run in the 10th inning of his Mets' debut in 1985 and Kiner introduced him as Gary Cooper, the famed actor.

"Gary was a great sport about it," Kiner remembered. "He came on 'Kiner's Korner' afterward and introduced himself to me as Gary Cooper and even signed a picture to me, 'Gary Cooper Carter.'"

His observations were pretty astute, too.

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