Ralph Kiner should be the first Hall of Famer to win the Frick Award

Iconic Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner
Iconic Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

On Dec. 8, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the 2022 Ford C. Frick Award was awarded to Jack Graney, a broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians for over 20 years in the 1930s and ‘40s. Graney also played in the Majors for 14 seasons, all with Cleveland, from 1908-22. He joins several other MLB players-turned-announcers to win the Frick Award, including Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker. Two New York Mets announcers have won the award — Lindsey Nelson in 1988 and Bob Murphy in 1994.

To date, no Hall of Fame MLB players have also received the Frick Award as a broadcaster. However, many players inducted into the Hall of Fame enjoyed long, highly-touted announcing careers long after their playing days concluded. 

So, why hasn’t Hall of Famer and beloved Mets announcer Ralph Kiner ever won the Frick Award?

From 1962 until his death in 2014, Kiner was a broadcaster for the Amazins. He was part of the team’s original announcing trio alongside Nelson and Murphy. They handled the team’s TV and radio broadcasting duties together for 17 years, nearly the same amount of time that the current TV triumvirate of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling have been together. 

Thirteen years into his Mets broadcasting tenure, Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a player, after a sparkling, injury-shortened career in which he led the National League in home runs and received MVP votes in each of his first seven seasons. Kiner finished his playing days with 369 homers over 10 years, eight with a decidedly subpar Pittsburgh Pirates team. In addition to his home run heroics, Kiner led the NL in walks, slugging, and OPS three times each and RBIs and runs scored once each. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his final year of BBWAA eligibility in 1975.

By that time, Mets fans were already very familiar with Kiner’s memorable on-air malapropisms, known as “Kinerisms,” which became his signature (Kiner once introduced a Mother’s Day broadcast by confidently stating, “It's Mother's Day today at Shea, so to all you mothers out there, happy birthday.") Especially in the Mets’ early days, when losing was the norm, his creativity was appreciated by all.

“I’ve always said that the reason the Mets hired me was because I had losing experience because of [my time] with the Pirates,” Kiner told the New York Times in a 2010 interview

But Kiner was far more than just an engaging color commentator – he did play-by-play on both TV and radio for decades and was known as a sharp and skilled storyteller. His decades behind the mic made him the third longest-tenured announcer in baseball history, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrín. Both Scully and Jarrín have won the Frick Award, in 1982 and 1998, respectively. 

"It’s not like [Kiner] just showed up," Cohen said to NJ.com in 2014. "He prepared for every game he did. He watched every game that he could and he kept up to date. He had the ability to tell old stories, but he had opinions of today’s players. He still had something to bring."

Kiner also made a name for himself, in both announcing and show business, through his iconic postgame show “Kiner’s Korner,” which featured the stars of that day’s game and, sometimes, other celebrity guests. “Kiner’s Korner” ran for over 30 years and helped cement the Mets’ playful image in the ‘60s while committing to lighthearted fun throughout its run. It also carved out a niche for Kiner in the broadcasting world that further set him apart from his booth-bound peers. 

“The thing about Ralph is he made you feel so comfortable – no pretense, just be yourself,” said Hall of Famer and Mets legend Tom Seaver, a frequent guest on the show, in 2012. “It wasn’t a high-end show. But the best thing is he understood; he knew just what you meant.”

Even after Kiner’s role on the air decreased to occasional fill-in and guest appearances, he never failed to light up the Mets broadcast with his wit, charm, and baseball stories.

Both of Kiner’s original broadcast partners received the Frick Award long ago. Many other legendary broadcasters who began their MLB announcing careers well after Kiner did have since received the Frick Award, including Bob Costas, Ken Harrelson, and Bill King. 

Kiner was most recently a Frick Award finalist in 2014, the year of his passing, for the 2015 award. Richie Ashburn and Dizzy Dean, two other Hall of Famer players-turned-announcers, were also finalists that year, but the award ultimately went to Dick Enberg.

Kiner’s 50-plus years as a broadcaster are well-documented, but it's well past time for him to be recognized on the level of his award-winning peers.

"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," said Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark after Kiner’s passing in 2014.

Based on his contributions to the Mets’ booth for over half a century and to baseball broadcasting as a whole, Kiner absolutely deserves to enhance his Cooperstown legacy and become the first Hall of Famer to win the Frick Award for his announcing career. 

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