NEW YORK CITY — Hall of Fame slugger and legendary Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner died of natural causes in his California home on Thursday. He was 91.
Kiner, who played just 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, finished his career with 369 home runs, and twice topped 50 home runs in a season while averaging more than 100 RBI per season, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“With the passing of Ralph Kiner, the baseball world has lost one of its greatest ambassadors and the Hall of Fame has lost a wonderful friend,” read a statement from Jane Forbes Clark, Hall of Fame chairwoman.
“Ralph spent eight decades as a player, executive and broadcaster. He was a man who truly loved our National Pastime and made it better in every way. His legacy will live forever in Cooperstown.”
The former Pirates slugger was signed in 1942, but his career was briefly interrupted when he served as a NAVY pilot during World War II. After returning home in 1945, he joined the Pirates' minor league system, was called up a year later and hit 23 home runs in his rookie season.
He would go on to become one of baseball's most dominant power hitters, leading the National League in home runs in his first seven seasons, a record that has still never been broken.
Years after retiring from baseball, Kiner became the first announcer in New York Mets history, calling games for more than 50 seasons after the team's inception in 1962.
Kiner also hosted a Mets post-game show called Kiner's Korner, a fan-favorite segment that featured interviews with Mets stars like Ed Kranepool alongside legends like Pete Rose and Tommy Lasorda.
He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.
"Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history — an original Met and extraordinary gentleman," read a statement from Mets chairman and C.E.O. Fred Wilpon.
"Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats."
Kiner is survived by two sons, Ralph Michael Kiner and Scott McPherran Kiner; three daughters, Kathryn Chaffee Freeman, Tracey Jansen and Kimberlee Mazoni; and 12 grandchildren, according to the Hall of Fame.