It’s interesting to read the thoughts of former baseball players, especially one such as Ralph Kiner, who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. I spent the last few days reading Kiner’s memoir, Baseball Forever: Reflections on 60 Years in the Game, published a decade ago in 2004.
A few years after his playing career came to an end, Kiner shifted into a position with the New York Mets broadcast team, where he’s been practically forever since although he’s cut down in games in the past decade.
Kiner doesn’t just reflect on his own playing career but how things have changed since he played. His memoir is very informal but conversational, as it is filled with anecdotes, opinions, and laughs. Having spent just about his entire adult life in baseball, Kiner is equally as qualified to talk about the game, then and now.
When he played, conditioning was banned by the clubhouse but he was one of the few players that did it anyway during the offseason.
Kiner shares a conversation that he had with St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial back in the day. He writes about his friendship with Hank Greenberg, who joined the Pirates early on in his career. Greenberg gave him pointers on hitting and this led to Kiner smashing balls out of the park. When Kiner retired in 1955 with 369 home runs, he was ranked sixth all-time in his career if you could believe it.
Kiner spent a chapter writing about what it was like to chase Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs in a season. He didn’t make it but he won 7 straight home run titles during the 1946-52 seasons.
Another chapter is spent on the dynasty of the New York Yankees from back when Casey Stengal was the manager. There is also the labor unrest and the start of the baseball pension plan.
Kiner retired at 32 years old–which is young in this era but back then, they didn’t have the medical technology available like they do today. It would all of 15 ballots to get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame–one of three players to do so. The other two are Red Ruffing (1967) and Jim Rice (2009).
All in all, this book was a great read and it’s a nice addition to any baseball book collection.