I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the many tributes that have been written about Ralph Kiner since his passing yesterday, at the age of 91. As any Mets fan of a certain age — which has become an official demographic these days, “men of a certain age,” the Cialis crowd — I have a long, fond attachment to Ralph Kiner.
As a younger man, I never understood why people would react to a celebrity’s death by saying, “That’s sad.” I’d think to myself, The guy was 91, that’s what happens, get over it.
I guess I still feel that way, except that now I understand it better. When a man like Ralph Kiner goes, who connected to our youth, our purest days as baseball fans, who shared with us the Mets triumphs and tribulations, we can’t help but realize that we’ve lost something, too. We see it fading, fading away.
We loved Ralph for different reasons. What I learned from Ralph Kiner was that baseball was about story. Guys sitting around, shooting the shit, the memories and the anecdotes.
Remember the time when . . .
We never heard Ralph talk much about numbers and statistics. He knew them, Ralph Kiner was an intelligent man, but the game that he loved was about the people who played it, the funny things that happened, the thrill of the grass, the stories you could bring home with you and tell another day. We try to do that a little bit here at “2 Guys” when recounting past players. It’s not enough, not nearly enough, to go through the stat sheet and sum up a career. There’s no humanity it in; but maybe moreso, there’s no fun, no laughter.
Ralph Kiner reminded us that the game was a joy to behold.
I read his book, aptly titled, Baseball Forever, when it came out in 2004. I’ve hunted around the house and damn if I could find it. I remember enjoying it a great deal, my admiration for Kiner deepening with each page. He lived a life. I hadn’t realized that he was such a strong union man, an unwavering advocate for players’ rights.
The book wasn’t “written” so much as it was told with a conversational tone, breezy, easy, moving from story to story. I recommend it to anyone who might miss Ralph, who might want to hear that voice again, and be reminded of why we love the game — and now, sadly, to remember also what we’ve lost.
The book was co-written with the help of Danny Peary. From the Publishers Weekly review: