Ralph Kiner, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ralph McPherran Kiner (October 27, 1922 – February 6, 2014) was an American Major League Baseball player. An outfielder, Kiner played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Cleveland Indians from 1946 through 1955. Following his retirement, Kiner served from 1956 through 1960 as general manager of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. He also served as an announcer for the New York Mets from the team’s inception until his death. Though injuries forced his retirement from active play after 10 seasons, Kiner’s tremendous slugging outpaced all of his National League contemporaries between the years 1946 and 1952. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
At the time of his death, baseball writer Marty Noble named Kiner “one of baseball’s genuine and most charming gentlemen”.
From Baseball in Wartime:
Ralph M Kiner was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico on October 27, 1922. Kiner’s father died when Ralph was young and his mother moved to California. He played baseball at Alhambra High School and was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately after graduating. His professional career began in 1941 as an outfielder with the Albany Senators in the Class A Eastern League. In two seasons with the Senators he batted .288 and .268. In 1942 his 14 homers led the league.
Kiner joined the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in 1943, but within a few weeks he was inducted in the Navy. As a cadet he attended St Mary’s Pre-Flight School in California and earned his pilot’s wings and commission at Corpus Christi in December 1944. He flew Martin PBM Mariners from Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station in Hawaii on submarine patrols, accumulating 1,200 flying hours and playing hardly any baseball during that time.
Kiner broke into the major leagues with the Pirates in 1946 and led the National League in home runs for seven consecutive seasons. By 1951, he was the highest paid player in the league, at $90,000 and became one of the first players to host his own local TV show.
He retired after the 1955 season and became general-manager of the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League – a position he held until 1960 when he launched a career as a baseball broadcaster with the White Sox and then the Mets.
Ralph Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.