My kids give me the eye roll whenever we go to Brooklyn and we pass areas of my childhood that gets me revved up. We pass the Dust Bowl on 65th street and 8 Avenue and I go on about the day I lined a double into the gap in right field hitting from the 64th street diamond to the 65th street side of the field to clinch a spot in the 1976 playoffs of the Expo League. When we pass the roller hockey rink on Fort Hamilton Parkway they have to hear for the 1,356 time about getting elbowed and losing a front tooth in 1975. Then there is the school yard of P.S. 105 where I spent years 6 to 27 of my life playing baseball, stickball and basketball and drank my first Colt .45. There are things of you remember of your childhood that give a warm feeling of a time when your biggest worry was getting to the school yard in time to get into a game.
The passing of Ralph Kiner this afternoon has given me a reason to scrap my workload for the day and reflect on a time when the most important thing in my life was playing baseball, watching baseball, listening to baseball and going to baseball games. Life was so simple back then, dad went to work, mom stayed home and took care of cooking and cleaning and Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner were broadcasting Mets games. When you’re 12 years old you think this is how life will always be.
I knew Kiner was in real bad shape and to say he lived a full life is as big an understatement as you can say but the thought of not hearing Gary Cohen say “next inning we will be joined by Ralph Kiner” hurts my heart.
Who didn’t like Ralph Kiner? Men admired him for being a star home run hitter and for being a “man’s man” and always getting the girl. The women swooned over Ralph as he was as suave and debonair as anyone on television and kids just wanted to grow up to be like him.
As much as we loved Kiner for his “Kiner-isims” like calling Gary Carter “Gary Cooper” and tying to out double talk Casey Stengel on the greatest television show in history Kiners Korner it was the knowledge that no matter how bad your day was (as a kid a bad day was 0 for 4 or losing the court by dropping a basketball or stickball game in the school yard) that night when your turned on Ch.9 WOR at 7:30PM you would be greeted with “Hello everybody I’m Lindsay Nelson along with Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner we will bring tonight game between the New York Mets and the ……” All was right with the world.
It’s a strange time in my life as the guys I grew up watching are all getting older and for some reason I’m shocked, like last Sunday watching the Super Bowl I realized that Joe Namath was 70 years old. SEVENTY YEARS OLD!!!!!!! My God Tom Seaver will be 70 years old this coming November (I need a moment here………………………………………..okay I’m good) wasn’t it just yesterday I was playing stickball in the P.S. 105 schoolyard with my friends (some who are no longer with us and if I dwell on that I may just ball up in a corner and become inconsolable) listening to Ralph Kiner on the radio (the trio of Kiner, Murph and Nelson rotated from TV to radio those days) describe to us that Tom Seaver was mowing down the San Diego Padres via 10 straight strikeouts . It wasn’t yesterday; it was close to 44 years ago. Seems like yesterday. Time flies doesn’t it?
May God rest the soul of Ralph Kiner.