By Mike Steffanos
In today's Daily News, Bob Raissman commends Saturday night's tribute to Ralph Kiner, but takes SNY to task for underutilizing the Mets icon:
...since SNY became the TV home of the Mets, Kiner has been pushed to the edge of retirement. If it makes anyone feel better, call it semiretirement. Last season, Kiner made about 25 appearances in the Mets broadcast booth. This season, including three spring training telecasts, he is scheduled to make 14 (Kiner will only be seen five more times this season).
... It probably has to do with Kiner slurring his words. Since he was stricken with Bell's palsy in 1998, Kiner has struggled with his speech. What the suits who gutted Kiner's TV schedule don't get is this: For Mets fans, Kiner is like family. They have been hearing him speak this way now for nine years. They understand him.
They also know his mind is sharp. He can still deliver stories and humor and doesn't try to jive anyone when he presents analysis.
And if anyone thinks it's Kiner who wants to take it easy, well, that's highly doubtful. In May, Scott M. Kiner, Kiner's son, sent an e-mail here. I'm not getting into his entire message, but one line reflects its tone and feeling.
"Baseball is my father's life," Scott Kiner said. "It's what gets him out of bed every day. It's what makes him happy."
The cruise can wait. Give Ralphie more games.
I couldn't agree more. If SNY isn't comfortable using Ralph on more games, why not find something else for Kiner to do?
In the movie Dodgeball which came out a few years back, the games of the fictional tournament were being televised on "ESPN 8, the Ocho" -- the joke being, of course, that someday there will be so many channels of ESPN programming that they will resort to televising dubious events in order to fill out their schedule. Me and a friend of mine have nicknamed SNY "the Ocho" for all of the just plain crap they show when there is no Mets game on.
I have an idea for a relative low-cost show that would actually entice me to tune in, unlike Canadian football and beach volleyball games. Why not team up Ralph with a competent interviewer and let him share the hundreds of great stories he has? Ralph is a link to such wonderful baseball history going back to the 1940s. Ralph was a celebrity when being one actually required being great at something. Although tragically handicapped by never having an internet sex video released, he is infinitely more interesting than the lost souls who command our attentions today. He lived a great life, and the stories he could share about it are perishable treasures that can be preserved or simply allowed to fade away. You can never get back all of the classic Kiner's Korners that were senselessly destroyed. What a great chance to preserve some of the great stories and give Mets fans a little more of someone who they love at the expense of some softball or fishing show that no one watches, anyway.
One thing I have wondered in my life is what I would say if I was lucky enough to meet someone famous who has enriched my life. I have no doubt whatsoever what I would say if I was treated to some time with Ralph. I would simply thank him for nourishing my love of baseball over the years, then shut my stupid trap and listen to as many stories as he was willing to share with me. It wouldn't matter in the least if many of them were familiar from decades of listening to him. It's all good.