Burkhardt: Working with my idol, Ralph Kiner, was dream come true
FEB 07, 2014 7:23a ET
FOX Sports' Kevin Burkhardt has worked on New York Mets broadcasts since 2007. Here are his thoughts on his colleague and friend Ralph Kiner, who passed away Thursday at age 91 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Imagine doing something consistently great for 52 years. Now imagine doing that as your second career, after a Hall of Fame first career.
Ralph Kiner was the iconic voice of the New York Mets since their inception in 1962, broadcasting games through last season with his keen baseball eye and his fantastic storytelling ability.
It was impossible not to get mesmerized when Ralph would bust out a story about Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, guys whom he saw play with his own eyes!
Who else could tell you that former Giants great and Hall of Famer Rube Marquard was one heckuva dancer? Ralph gave you everything on a broadcast -- he was your friend and he was a treasure.
"Kiner's Korner" was a postgame fixture of Mets games. Ralph would chat it up with the best performer of the day, and the players were honored to be on the show.
Of course, the crisp $100 bill he gave to each guest was a nice reward, too. There were some classic moments on Kiner's Korner: the time Casey Stengel was done with his interview, walked off with microphone attached and tore down the set. Jerry Koosman once opened the show by himself, as Ralph was caught in stadium traffic trying to get to the set! There was the time Ralph asked Mets catcher Choo Choo Coleman, "What's your wife's name, and what's she like?" Coleman replied, "Her name is Mrs. Coleman -- and she likes me, bub."
His life spoke for itself, as did his stories. Hyperbole? Not needed.
That first career I spoke of? That would be Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Final stats: 369 home runs in a 10-year career cut short by back problems. That's a home run every 14.1 at-bats. He was a star in every sense of the word -- a seven-time home run champ, at least 40 homers in five consecutive seasons.
And then, there was the social life off the field. Kiner was friends with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and dated Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh among others.
Now, imagine growing up watching Ralph, idolizing him and getting a chance to sit next to him and call a spring training game.
That was me six years ago, and man was I nervous. I mean, this was Ralph Kiner!
All the accolades above, the fact that he was a Navy pilot in World War II, a former GM, an iconic star, and here was the best part of Ralph Kiner: He was a true gentleman. He shook my hand, made me feel like I had been doing games with him forever, and we talked baseball for the next few hours.
A privilege I will never forget.