Ralph Kiner: 1922 – 2014

I'm sure that I've mentioned this more than once in the past, but when I was a really young kid one of my favorite things in the entire world was a VHS tape named The Battling Bucs: The First 100 Years of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The portion of the tape that covered the late 1940s and early 1950s mostly talked about Kiner and his prodigious power (and it may have been that tape that taught me that the Pirates shortened the right field fence at Forbes Field to help Hank Greenberg out when they obtained him for the 1946 season but it was Kiner that really took advantage of the change, though it's possible that I learned that somewhere else). What I mainly remember about Kiner from that tape, though, is one of Kiner's teammates telling the camera that you used to be able to watch the fans leave Forbes Field after Kiner would bat in the seventh or eighth inning. 

I thought about that tape a lot on hot afternoons and long nights at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park. I'd think about it when Brian Giles batted for the last time in a loss, or when Oliver Perez would leave the game with 14 strikeouts and a 1-0 deficit, or when we'd show up for a game and see Abraham Nunez at shortstop instead of Jack Wilson. Sometimes, as a fan, all you really have is one player, and sometimes that one player is just enough to keep you going. I have to imagine that Kiner was that player for Pirate fans from 1946 – 1953. 

In 2014, we put a lot of focus on context; park factors, league factors, splits, weaknesses, strengths, and so on. This is what Ralph Kiner did in his seven full seasons with the Pirates: he hit .281/.405/.571 with 294 home runs, 2148 total bases, and seven National League home run crowns. Sometimes, context is unnecessary. 

Kiner died today at the age of 91. I never watched him play one game nor did I ever hear him announce one, but I'll never go to a lopsided baseball game without thinking about him and smiling. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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