Saturday, February 08, 2014

N.Y. Mets: Ralph Kiner Took Us There

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS: I Revisited The Summers of '74-'76 For The Next Forty Years Thanks To Ralph Kiner.

For me, those were the summers just prior to the dark period.  In which ever era of Mets baseball you grew up in, right up until last season, Ralph Kiner always took you there.

When I was a kid, the exterior of Shea Stadium was still decorated with multi-colored panels, the outfield fences were green, there was no Diamond Vision, no picnic area, or bleachers, or Home Run Apple.  In fact, the Yankees were co-occupying Shea Stadium during renovation of their River Avenue ballpark.

Free agency had not taken hold of the game yet, Hank Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth's career home run record, the N.L. still only had 12 teams, and the Big Red Machine was running wild.

Relief pitchers were called firemen, and when called upon, were driven in from the bullpen in golf carts refitted to resemble a giant baseball and cap.  The designated hitter experiment in the American League was still a new concept.

Players did not wear names on the backs of their jerseys then.  Their uniform numbers were more hardwired into our young brains.  The manner with which players swung a bat, or wound up to pitch, made the most impressions on us.  This was a time when players were a bit more quirky, and not necessarily restricted by, or drilled in prohibitive fundamentals.  Players were allowed to have their own unique styles back then.

Broadcasters were no different.  For me, my earliest baseball professors were Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and the recently departed Ralph Kiner.

I was too young for the Miracle of 1969, but as a young boy, I was able to enjoy a few years watching Seaver, Milner, Koosman, Harrelson, Grote, Garrett, Millan, Kranepool, Tug, Rusty, Matlack, and Jones all play together.  Their on-field efforts were narrated by the Mets original broadcast team.

Even more than the 1980's, those were the days, still, most magical to me.  Well beyond the playing careers of the above mentioned players, and well after the departure of Lindsey Nelson, and the passing of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner continued bringing me back to those days and nights of my youth.

Time marches on, and so, the older I get, the more blessed I feel to have become a Mets fan when I did.


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