A few years ago, I was very fortunate to get the wild idea of sending a bunch of baseballs to Hall of Fame legends in the hopes of achieving TTM success.
Systematically and for obvious reasons, I began with the oldest members first and worked my way forward in time. As many of you can probably confirm, I enjoyed MUCH more success with the oldest players and slowly saw my return success rate dwindle to NOTHING by the time I reached the players who retired in the late 70's and beyond.....
One of those earlier success stories was the late Ralph Kinder. Mr. Kiner passed away recently at the age of 91. He played in the majors for an injury-abbreviated 10 years but completely OWNED the League with his slugging ability from '46 to '52 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Get this - Kiner arrived on the scene in '46 with a respectable 22 home runs but troubling 109 K's. Hank Greenberg was set to retire but the Bucs convinced the slugger to stay on with the club, during which time he tried to impart some of his batting wisdom to the young Kiner. It must have worked because Ralph blasted 51 home runs that very next season and struck out less than 100 times.
Kiner's 51 round trippers led the League, a feat he would then continue for seven consecutive years. SEVEN! He was known to deposit a fair amount of his homers into the short left porch at Forbes Field - an area that had been known as Greenberg's Gardens. Rightfully, the landing pad was bequeathed to Ralph and acquired the name of Kiner's Korner, a name that Ralph would later use for his own broadcasting show.
Mr. Kiner was elected into the Hall in 1975. He finished his ten years of playing with an average of over 36 home runs and 100+ RBI every year he played. He was also a six-time All Star. Ralph Kiner would go on to be a manager for several clubs before settling into the role of radio announcer for the New York Mets, a job he held and excelled at from the first game the Metropolitans ever played until the day Mr. Kiner passed away this month.
I am so glad I have Mr. Kiner as a part of my collection. I am sad to say that I don't yet have any cards of Mr. Kiner but here is the baseball and signature cards that he signed for me:
Despite being in his late 80's, Mr. Kiner put a couple of great looking signatures on these items and I really appreciate his HOF inscription on the ball. I'm going to make it a priority to add some cards of his to my collection. I can't wait to begin my search.
By all accounts, Mr. Kiner was another one of those Greatest Generation, true gentlemen GOLDEN ambassadors for the game. Everyone who knew him LOVED him and there doesn't seem to be a bad thing said about the man. My grandfather helped to instill my love for the game and he himself was a product of PA - so he always had a soft spot in his heart for the Pirates. I can recall that he was very excited to see Mr. Kiner's autograph in my collection. At the time, I thought this was a little odd considering some of the other names on the other baseballs......but now, I kind of get it.
Yes....I will have to seek out some Ralph Kiner cards for my collection.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter, Mr. Kiner. I am glad we were able to connect if but for a simple TTM so that I can now learn more about you and appreciate your contributions to the game. Rest in peace, sir.
Thanks for reading!