Hall of Fame slugger, broadcaster Ralph Kiner dies at 91
NEW YORK — 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 homer 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.
Kiner had a stroke about a decade ago that slowed his speech, but remained an occasional part of the Mets' announcing crew.
The Mets named the home TV booth at Shea Stadium was named in his honor. The Pirates retired Kiner's No. 4.