New York Mets legend Ed Kranepool
Kranepool was a true local kid, born in the Bronx and he attended James Monroe High School. A big kid, he played basketball and baseball. During the Mets’ inaugural season of 1962, Kranepool was signed at the age of 17 by a Mets scout as an amateur free agent.
He enjoyed success on three levels of the minor leagues and, although still 17 years of age, he was thrust into Major Leagues as a September call-up. He made his debut – wearing No. 21 – as a defensive replacement for the aging Gil Hodges at first base, and then made his first start the very next day at first base and got his first base hit.
When fan favorite Marv Throneberry got off to a horrible start at the beginning of the next season, Kranepool was thrown into the mix as the starting right fielder. But he was clearly overmatched and was sent to the minors after hitting only .190. He returned in September of that season showing improvement but still not ready for primetime.
This type of scenario, the back and forth, continued through much of the decade. He was truly bounced around between the minors and the Major League club. The epitome of it all was a span of two days in which he played a double header – all 18 innings – for the Buffalo Bisons on May 30 and then was called up to play both ends of a double header for the Mets on May 31, including the second game which, by itself, went 23 innings, of which Krane played all of the 23 innings.
Those two games for the Mets, though, started him on a hot streak that saw him finish the 1964 season with a productive .257 average with 10 home runs and 45 RBI in a part-time role.
When the 1965 season started, he was asked to trade in his No. 21 when the Mets acquired Hall of Fame great Warren Spahn. Kranepool then began wearing his more familiar No. 7.
He started that season off on a tear and was batting .287 with 7 HR and 37 RBI as the All Star break and was the Mets sole representative on the NL All Star team. He was not able to maintain the pace and by the end of the season, his average dropped but he still led with 133 hits and a .253 average for a Mets team that dropped 112 games.
Kranepool came back strong in 1966 to hit a career high 16 home runs and although he dropped back to hit 10 HR in ‘67, he raised his batting average to .269 with 54 RBi. But then came a dreadful 1968, the year of the pitcher, where he would slump to .231 with a mere 3 HR and 20 RBI.
Then the Miracle season of 1969 and, although productive, the Mets brought in the big veteran power bat of Donn Clendenon. Kranepool and Clendenon would form a formidable righty-lefty platoon at first base to help lead the Mets to a World Championship.
The aura of ’69 wore off quickly as Kranepool was hitting .170 with 0 HR and 3 RBI after 43 games and only 47 at bats. He was banished to Tidewater in what had to have been an embarrassing situation. He did not return for the rest of the 1970 season.
But he did return for the 1971 season and came back with probably his best season of his career, sharing first base, again, with Clendenon, hitting .280 with 14 HR and career high 58 RBI.
Even with the retirement of Clendenon, to go along with his more consistent production, Kranepool was still never given the opportunity to be a full-time player. Although he hit for a .287 clip over the next seven seasons, Kranepool was to take a back seat to two guys like John “The Hammer” Milner and Dave “Sky” or “Kong” Kingman.
There was only one season – 1965 – at the age of 20, that Kranepool was given 500 or more at bats, never really given the opportunity to be an everyday player. He retired at the age of 34 having given his entire career to the Mets. He was a local kid who showed promise. He obviously had ability, finishing his career with a respectable .261 batting average.
He was there during the 1962 inaugural season and experienced being a part of the lovable losers. He was there when the Mets rose to take the world by storm and win a World Series title in 1969. And then he watched it all fall apart when the organization hit rock bottom in the late 70’s and dismantled the franchise.
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So you have to wonder…did this man, this player, who came to be a folk hero and fan favorite as a part-time player and pinch hitter galore before Rusty Staub captured that role, fail as a player or did the Mets organization fail him? Ed Kranepool is an example, and is the epitome of the dysfunction of the Mets organization and how they were not able to properly bring along a young, talented player…a player who could have been, at one time, the face of the organization.