Yesterday another piece of my childhood faded away.
While I was at work I received a email from the Mets announcing the passing of Hall Of Fame ballplayer and original Mets announcer, Ralph Kiner. At first it didn’t sink in. I don’t know if this was because I was so caught up with my work – or I was just aloof. But upon driving in my car on my way home from the office I started to cry – and cry hard. I am not really the emotional type. I didn’t cry when my grandfather passed away six years ago , and I certainly didn’t cry when I got the news that my father had passed almost two years ago. But for some reason whether it was with Tug McGraw, Bob Murphy or Gary Carter before him I cried.
My best guess is because the aforementioned men were like my babysitters. I was barely old enough to remember McGraw as a Met – but for some reason I gravitated to his infectious source of positivity. With Murph and the Kid along with Ralph that was the era that I was truly aware of baseball – when I truly understood the game.
I had the honor being in Ralph’s presence twice in my lifetime. The first was around 1983 at a charity stickball event. I met the likes of Tom Seaver and Jake LaMotta that day – but Ralph was the nicest and warmest of the celebrities at that event. He even signed my autograph book without having to beg.
Fast forward to August of 2010. My wife and I are in attendance for the Mets Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies for Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson. Towards the end of the game my wife and I caught up with my sister, brother in law and two nephews in the Caesars Club. We all decided to leave just before the end of the game and we took the club elevator to leave the building. And then it happened…
The elevator stopped at one of the private floors and who happened to get on but Ralph Kiner and a woman who I guess was his wife being wheeled into the elevator car by their attendants’. My nephews who must’ve been about 5 at the time were acting precocious as most 5 year olds do, and Ralph just looked at them and smiled. I didn’t utter a word to Ralph in that elevator because I respected his privacy and he looked extremely tired. But Ralph looked at me and nodded. I smiled back and wanted to thank him but I was just basking in the aura of this man.
Technically Ralph wasn’t a Met – but in many respects he truly was. No he never played one game as a Met, but he will always be tethered to the tapestry of this team. He will always be an original Met.
Even in his latter years with his speech impaired by Bell’s Palsy and often sounding tired, he could still inspire me with stories from his days of old with the Pirates – or even regale you with tales of Choo Choo Coleman, Casey Stengel or Dwight Gooden.
My innocence was lost many years ago – but I always felt that as long as I heard Ralph’s voice I still could hold onto a childhood that left me many years ago. I will miss you Ralph – and as I shed a tear, I also raise a glass of whiskey in your honor.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:
- Reserve outfielder from ’74-’76, Benny Ayala is 63 (1951).
- One of the better starting pitchers from the “oh so bad early ’80’s teams“, Charlie Puleo is 59 (1955). Puleo was the main cog in the trade with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Tom Seaver back to Flushing.
- The man responsible for one of the most amazing catches in the history of the baseball postseason, Endy Chavez is 36 (1978).
Other notable transactions include:
- The New York Mets traded spot starter/middle reliever, Hank Webb and minor league pitching prospect, Rich Sanders to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league shortstop, Rick Auerbach on February 7, 1977.
- One time Cy Young Mets pitcher, Mickey Lolich announced his retirement on February 7, 1977. Lolich would come out of retirement a year later to pitch for the San Diego Padres.
- The New York Mets released utility infielder, Ross Jones on February 7, 1986.
- The New York Mets claimed reserve infielder, David Lamb on waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on February 7, 2000.
- The Seattle Mariners signed backup catcher, Kelly Shoppach of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 7, 2013.
“Mo Vaughn was so fat he couldn’t bend over!!!” Ralph Kiner, August 10th 2010