Ralph Kiner is honored by the Foundation this week for his service in the United States Navy during World War II. Leaving his successful baseball career is an example of the many other Americans that unselfishly put their careers on hold to serve their country.
Kiner played baseball throughout high school and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He started as an outfielder with the Albany Senators in the Class A Eastern League in 1941, and then joined the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in 1943.
His time with the Maple Leafs was shortened when he enlisted in the Navy that spring. He attended pre-flight school at St. Mary’s in California as a cadet, earning his pilot wings and commission in December 1944.
After earning his flight wings, Kiner flew Martin PBM Mariners on submarine patrols from Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station in Hawaii, looking for enemy submarines and ships. He helped to keep America safe while accumulating 1,200 flight hours. He played very little baseball during this time.
Kiner returned to baseball in 1946, rejoining the Pirates. Despite his absence from baseball, he made his MLB debut that April. From 1947 to 195l, he hit at least 40 home runs, with at least 100 runs batted in, and led the National League in home runs for 7 consecutive years until 1952. Having played with the Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, and the Cleveland Indians, he retired in 1955.
After his retirement from baseball, he was a very successful broadcaster with the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets. He also became one of the first players to host his own local TV show called “Kiner’s Korner.” He was the general manager of the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League from 1956 to 1960. Kiner was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 after finishing his career with 369 home runs.
The Foundation salutes Ralph Kiner for his commitment and sacrifice as a successful Navy pilot, as well as for his success in baseball.