Happy birthday to 2014 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year & 1986 World Series Champ Wally Backman. @lasvegas51s
by Keith Hernandez
We take a look back at the life and legacy of Mets and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner through the eyes of those in the Mets family who knew him best. Fellow Mets Hall of Famer and SNY broadcaster Keith Hernandez was a frequent guest on Kiner’s Korner and shared a broadcast booth with him for eight seasons. He reflects on his colleague and friend.
Growing up my dad was a huge baseball fan. He thought that it was very important that I learn the history of the game, so he told me stories about Ralph Kiner. I remember him saying that he was a big, strong home run hitter. Those history lessons that my dad gave me definitely served me well during my playing career and now in the broadcast booth. I try to pass them along to the kids at home, who are learning the game today.
I got to know Ralph professionally while playing for the Cardinals. I enjoyed visiting the set of Kiner’s Korner and looked forward to receiving the crisp $100 bill that we were given for the appearance. In 1975, that went along way. Back then, I was on the opposing team so the interviews with Ralph were pretty serious. I also remember that it was the only TV studio in a stadium at the time, which was pretty unique. It was hard to adjust to seeing yourself on the monitor and focusing on the interview. I guess you could say it was good preparation for the media blitz that I would later experience as a New York Met.
When I joined the Mets, Ralph became a friend. I arrived in 1983 and the team was on the cusp of great things. My visits to Kiner’s Korner became a little less serious and a little more jovial. He enjoyed the ride as we became fierce competitors and later World Series champs. He was so much a part of the organization and the association and the fondness that Mets fans had for Ralph just continued to evolve and grow throughout his career.
When I retired from playing the game and started up in the broadcast booth, Ralph could have been very territorial about his work. Maybe he thought that his time was up and there was going to be a changing of the guard, but, you know what, he was just so great. I had no experience in the booth and he was so very helpful to me. He was even so gracious when I stepped on his toes a few times early on because I didn’t know my way around. He was such a class act.
I think too many announcers now are cookie cutter and Ralph certainly had his idiosyncrasies, but he knew the game. He would call Gary Carter, Gary Cooper, which I thought was hilarious. I always looked forward to working with him. I never got tired of his stories and actually would have loved to spend more time in the booth with him. He was very generous and never saw me as a threat. I always treated him with deference and had great admiration and respect for him. He was just so even keeled; the quintessential gentleman.
Happy birthday #Mets bench coach, Bob Geren!
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When Jenrry is happy, we’re all happy.