Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ralph Kiner: 1922-2014

This is something I don't typically do but some bad news for the Pirates organization today when Ralph Kiner passed away from natural causes at the age of 91. Kiner was a stud for the Pirates when he played for the club from 1946-52 and is one of the best players in franchise history.

Kiner was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 and his #4 was retired by the Pirates in 1987. Kiner as also a member of the Mets broadcasting crew from the Mets first season in 1962 until he passed. He was elected into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.

Oh yea, before Kiner was a Pittsburgh Pirate he was a fighter pilot for the Navy from 1943-45 foregoing the chance to play Major League Baseball. That, more than anything else, might be the most badass thing that he ever did. Sure, he was a great baseball player but he fought for our nation in one of the most historical events in the world and then he can come play baseball at a ridiculously high level. When he was called into service he was in the Pirates organization at the AA level but left to serve his county, something that others at the time did but still doesn't diminish the sacrifice he made.

On the field he was one of the best to ever wear a Pirates uniform. He led the National League in home runs in each of his first seven seasons with the Pirates and was the first National League player ever to have multiple 50 home run seasons. He played eight seasons for the Pirates and hit .280/.405/.567 for the Bucs with a 157 OPS+. That is pretty ridiculous.

Kiner was traded to the Chicago Cubs in June of 1953 because of some salary disputes with Pirates GM Branch Rickey and Rickey famously said about Kiner: “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you.” Cool.

He was a top-10 MVP candidate from 1947-52 and despite having to quit the game after nine seasons he still was a remarkable talent while losing almost three years due to WWII.

Obviously I have never seen Kiner play and don't have a lot to go on but from what I have read about him and see about his play through those articles I think he is a kind of player that everyone would have loved to watch. He lived a very long and successful life and that is what we all hope to do.

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