A part of getting old is losing things that you know will never be seen again.
We lost Ralph Kiner today at the age of 91, and thus we all get a little older. Though it seems like just something you throw out there when somebody passes, I think it's absolutely true to say that we'll never see the likes of Ralph Kiner again. How many Hall of Fame ballplayers/U.S. Navy Pilots/fifty plus year broadcasting icons do you know? Not a whole hell of a lot.
Most people merely exist. Ralph Kiner lived. And the best part of the life he lived was that he was willing to share it with all of us … first on a nightly basis, and then about once every three weeks when the Mets were at home during the day … until the end. And the stories got better and better from Kiner as the years went on. How about this for a Mets Classic next winter: Instead of playing a random ballgame, play nine innings from nine different games, all innings that Ralph Kiner stopped in the booth for, just to listen to these stories in long form.
And yes, we will never see the likes of Ralph again. There might be a Ralph Kiner that exists, but the climate would never accept him. First off, the broadcasting industry is no longer built for a broadcaster to stay with a particular team for 40+ years. Maybe 40 years from now somebody who is currently just starting with a team will prove me wrong. But with owners and owners' sons looking to "shake things up" all the time, and always looking to boost ratings with a personality, even announcers that deserve to have a home somewhere will never get a chance. And the treasures that we had … Kiner, Bob Murphy, Ernie Harwell, Jerry Coleman … we're losing them all. And it's a shame … a damn shame. Vin Scully is pretty much the last of them.
Also, all the "malaprops" that Kiner was known for (my personal favorite was "and the final score the Mets 3 and the Mets 2") … the ones we celebrated growing up would be ripped apart in the current world of rampant social media. Because let's face it: we hate everything. So those fun little tongue slips that were mere undercurrents back in the 80's would become full-blown scandals at the hands of every amateur detective on Twitter today. Then they would be used as evidence by the "consultants" that a change needs to be made. The fact that a Ralph Kiner could never take hold today is evidence to me that people like me who grew up in the 70's and 80's were lucky to have been born and raised when we were.
I didn't have a home run hitting career. I never broadcasted a major league baseball game, and I never dated Elizabeth Taylor. But Ralph Kiner did battle Bell's Palsy during his life, and that is my one connection to a Hall of Fame life. I get that damn Bell's Palsy pretty much once every 10-15 years. It's an annoyance more than anything. I got it in the fourth grade and I wanted to wear a ski mask to school. Got it again in college … two days before I was due to go out on a date … a blind date. Then again right before Christmas of 2005 during the transit strike and somebody asked me if I had a stroke. It's a very small connection that I have to a Hall of Famer, but one I can say I always had, and always felt like if somebody like Ralph Kiner can get it, then I shouldn't complain all that much.
Death is inevitable and unavoidable. You can only hope that while you are alive, you make your mark in a way that people will never forget you. Ralph Kiner did this in spades. He was the voice of an entire existence of a baseball franchise. Mets fans who were fans in 1962, and those who didn't jump aboard until this season will never forget Ralph Kiner and the contributions that he made to the Mets organization. He was truly one of a kind. And I guarantee you that at least once this season, you'll watch an SNY post game show with their probing microphones, loud analysis, and promises that you'll be "hearing from the manager" as if it is some special surprise at this point … and you'll think: "Man, life was so much simpler when Kiner's Korner was our post-game show."
Well, Kiner's Korner is now heaven's special post game show. And while we may never see the likes of Kiner's Korner again, heaven gets to have it forever. May all who walk through the pearly gates get a crisp hundred dollar bill and ten minutes of spotlight on the old set.