Magazine article The New Yorker

CAMARADERIE; THE OLD BALLGAME Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

CAMARADERIE; THE OLD BALLGAME Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

Ralph Kiner, the Hall of Fame ballplayer who has been a Mets broadcaster for four decades, showed up at Shea Stadium early the other day for one of the interleague games against the Yankees. He stopped in at his usual center of operations--the Mets' broadcast area has been designated the Ralph Kiner Television Booth--but didn't stay long.

"I'm not going to work announcing this one, just visit some of the guys," he said. "I miss the camaraderie of the old days, the way it used to be."

Kiner is eighty-one years old, more than six feet tall, and sturdy-looking, with erect posture, a calm, courtly manner, and an earnest, sun-beaten face. He had on a burnt-orange sports jacket, a multicolored silk shirt, cream-colored pants, and spotless white shoes. His 1975 Hall of Fame ring was on his wedding-ring finger.

Baseball fans know that Ted Williams put Kiner on his list of the twenty best hitters of all time; that Kiner was a Navy pilot in the Second World War; that, as a rookie outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1946, he led the National League in home runs, and that he did so again for the next six seasons; and that he retired at the age of thirty-two because of back problems. He joined the Mets in 1962, their first season, to do both radio and television broadcasting, and, for what seems like forever, with a hiatus or two, he has hosted a post-game show called "Kiner's Korner," which is as raffish as always but which, sadly, no longer features Kiner pouring a glass of Rheingold Extra Dry beer.

Kiner dropped by the main broadcast booth to say hello to the guys calling the game, then made his way downstairs to the tunnel that leads to the visitors' dugout. Groundskeepers, ball boys, players, and sportswriters stopped to call out "Hi, Ralph!" Someone pushing a cartfull of bats said, "Ralph! What do you think Yogi said when Piazza was honored the other night for his record number of home runs as a catcher?" Kiner smiled. Several people chorused, " 'I knew my record would stand until it's broken!' " Kiner continued onward, the field coming into view over the lip of the dugout, a lovely thing to see. The Yankees were out there, taking batting practice. "We used to be fined if we were caught talking to players on the opposing team," Kiner said. "But I always wanted to talk to all the guys who knew baseball. I still find camaraderie with some of the guys. …

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