Hall of Fame Outfielder Ralph Kiner Passes Away at Age 91

Pirates Slugger Elected to Cooperstown in 1975

February 06, 2014
Hall of Fame Left Fielder Ralph Kiner was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1975. (NBHOF Library)

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) -- Ralph Kiner passed away Thursday morning at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home. He was 91. Kiner died of natural causes, passing peacefully with his family at his side.

“With the passing of Ralph Kiner, the baseball world has lost one of its greatest ambassadors and the Hall of Fame has lost a wonderful friend,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Ralph spent eight decades as a player, executive and broadcaster. He was a man who truly loved our National Pastime and made it better in every way. His legacy will live forever in Cooperstown.”

[Obituary]

During his 10-year career, Kiner hit 369 home runs, winning or sharing the National League home run title in each of his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He twice topped 50 home runs, with 51 in 1947 and 54 in 1949. He averaged more than 100 RBI per season. Following his playing career, which was cut short by continuing back ailments, Kiner transitioned to the broadcast booth starting in 1962, where he would become a New York broadcast icon for the Mets.

“As one of baseball's most prolific power hitters for a decade, Ralph struck fear into the hearts of the best pitchers of Baseball's Golden Era despite his easy-going nature, disarming humility and movie-star smile,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “His engaging personality and profound knowledge of the game turned him into a living room companion for millions of New York Mets fans who adored his game broadcasts and later 'Kiner's Korner' for more than half a century. He was as comfortable hanging out in Palm Springs with his friend Bob Hope as he was hitting in front of Hank Greenberg at Forbes Field.”

Born October 27, 1922 in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Kiner played for the Pirates from 1946-53, the Cubs in 1953-54 and the Indians in 1955. Kiner averaged a home run every 14.1 at-bats, the sixth-best ratio of all-time and second among right-handed batters. 

Ralph Kiner’s Hall of Fame plaque (elected, 1975)

Ralph McPherran Kiner
Pittsburgh, N.L.  Chicago, N.L.
Cleveland, A.L.   1946-55

Hit 369 home runs and averaged better than 100 runs batted in per season in ten-year career. Only player to lead his league or share lead in homers seven years in a row, 1946-52. Twice had more than 50 in season, set N.L. mark of 101 four-baggers in two successive years with 54 in 1949 and 47 in 1950. Led N.L. in slugging pct. three times.

Quotes about Ralph Kiner 

Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner’s teammate and Hall of Famer: “Don’t send this boy out. He’s got a great swing, he’s very determined, and he’s going to make it.”

Quotes from Ralph Kiner 

“I never even thought about being a big leaguer. But our neighbors had a son who was four years older than me, and I used to shag fly balls for him. Finally, after about two months of shagging for him, I told him: ‘I want to hit.’ So he let me hit.” 

“I got to Forbes Field and saw it was 406 feet to left-center with a 30-foot scoreboard, and I thought: ‘I’m going to kill that scout who signed me.’” 

“The best thing that ever happened to me was when (the Pirates) got Hank Greenberg. Everything he told me worked. He’s the one who really got me going.” 

“Someone asked me how come I signed up with the Mets (as a broadcaster), since they weren’t going to win many games. I said: ‘I’ve got a lot of experience with losing.’”

On the web

Ralph Kiner’s Hall of Fame Induction Speech, a video tribute and his Hall of Fame plaque appear online at www.baseballhall.org/hof/kiner-ralph.