Baseball Forever

Here's a terrific photograph of Ralph Kiner on a date with Elizabeth Taylor.

Here’s a terrific photograph of Ralph Kiner on a date with Elizabeth Taylor.

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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.

51BpUZzthoL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU15_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:

Hall-of-Famer Kiner, a New York Mets announcer since their inception, offers an informal autobiography, chock-full of anecdotes, opinions and laughs . . . Kiner was also instrumental in the formation of the baseball union and recalls how once he was called a “communist” for asking for a raise. Kiner, a handsome man-about-town in his younger days, also has some hilarious anecdotes about dating actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh, plus some wonderful stories about his days broadcasting for the Mets with Hall-of-Fame announcers Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. In the end, this is a joyful and thoughtful book by one of baseball’s good guys.
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I love that last line, “a joyful and thoughtful book by one of baseball’s good guys.” I concur one hundred percent.

 

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4 comments

  1. Patrick Boegel says:

    Been looking for some books to read, particularly baseball.

    I keep coming back to this on Ralph. What a great life he lived.

  2. Ralph just seemed like the kind of guy who would never have a bad word to say about anybody. Thanks for the tip on the book.

  3. Michael Geus says:

    Never read Ralph’s book, but I can recommend Hello Everybody, This is Lindsey Nelson. One warning, the Mets are a part of the book, not the major emphasis.

    Nelson was a sports broadcasting pioneer, I found the stuff about those early days particularly interesting.

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