Book Review: Down on The Korner

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Rich Mancuso-100x100 “Down on The Korner”:  We know more now about Ralph Kiner and the broadcast

By Rich Mancuso

The post-game broadcast after a baseball game has come a long way with graphics, analysis that, at times, makes one wonder is this baseball or metrics beyond understanding. The sets have changed and so has the talent explaining and breaking it down to the baseball fan and those who occasionally follow the sport.

Then there was ”Kiner’s Korner” which many say was the innovator of the post-game broadcast. And it all started with Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, the late home run hitter who had his corner when hitting the ball out of the ballpark in Pittsburgh during his tenure with the Pirates.

After a telecast of a New York Mets game there was that anticipation of viewing the post-game show known as “Kiner’s Korner” hosted by Ralph on WOR TV Channel 9 in New York which was the television home of the Mets.

Kiner was one of the original Mets broadcasters that also included the late Lindsay Nelson and the late Bob Murphy.

“Ralph Kiner was revered not only for what he would say, but more importantly for how he would say it,” wrote Tim McCarver in the foreword of the book Down On The Korner: Ralph Kiner and Kiner’s Korner co-authored by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin and published by Carrel Books.

Rosenman, a sports talk show host in the New York area who reports on the Mets and Karpin, a Bronx native, who has been a sports reporter for more than thirty years (who pulls double-duty as a senior official scorer of Major League Baseball games in New York), reminisce about those who sat in the small “Kiner’s Korner” studio that was adjacent to the Mets locker room in the bowels of old Shea Stadium.

And if you were a fan of the Mets, you had to watch “Kiner’s Korner.” Because, at the time it was the original and brief postgame broadcast that got into the game. More so, it was question of who would appear on the small set that had a camera or two, and what would be the parting gift that the star player or two would receive for appearing on the show.

It wasn’t always the questions that Ralph asked the ballplayer he had on the broadcast. It was always a guess: Would they get a $50 dollar bill for appearing that the player would use at their favorite restaurant, or was it a wrist-watch that was supplied by the sponsor? Then there were the mispronouncing of names that Kiner was known to do, and he had a way of making the correction and getting out of the mistake with a little humor.
The sponsors would also get their share of the name being changed on the air but as accounts in the book tell, when Kiner read it on the air there was no harm done. Because Ralph Kiner was so loved, and doing something original and by himself, it became a bit of humor. The honor of being on the show meant meeting Kiner, listening to his stories and knowledge of the game.

It was like meeting a President of the United States or greeting the Pope in Rome. Those recollections are told from the many guests that appeared on the show from the early 1960’s into the 1990’s.

The authors were able to track down the many guests appeared on the broadcast and compiled an oral history of those interviews. It is those accounts that made “Kiner’s Korner” and the man so special.

There are the recollections Ron Swoboda. He played six of his major league seasons with the Mets and is best known for his great game saving diving catch against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series.

“My favorite story involved the actress, Jamie Lee Curtis,” as Swoboda is quoted. “He (Kiner) went out with Jamie’s mom, Leigh, back when he was one of the most eligible players. He could have modeled. He was a California guy. One day, Jamie Lee Curtis was coming through the broadcast area and Ralph came out and popped his head out there.  I don’t think she was looking for him but he said, ‘Jamie Lee, I dated  your mom’ and she looked at him and said, ‘Daddy.”

“Never missed a beat. We should all live our lives like that. It was so funny when I told that. He didn’t forget anything.”

And there was that theme song of the show that was original and simple. None of those elaborate graphics and many accounts regarding how the player was told that Ralph wanted you as a guest on the show.  No time to shower, the players would take that simple walk to the studio where Kiner awaited their presence and for the first time they saw a brief clip of the play for the first time.

See there was no ESPN highlight reel back then, and there was only so much that could be done in a 15-minute broadcast. After reading, the good old days of a post game broadcast come to life again. It was simple, to the point and most of all informative for the fan to watch.

“Mark and myself did the research and compiled as many of the stories we could get,” Karpin said. “It was a task and one of the most enjoyable books to do because there are so many stories about Ralph Kiner and the show that are memorable.”

And the humorous malaprops that Kiner was known for were all a part of “Kiner’s Korner.” Perhaps the most memorable “Kinerism” is renaming the show’s bank sponsor, Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust, “Manufacturers Hand-over Trust.” And calling Mets catcher Gary Carter, “Gary Cooper.”

Other signature Ralph Kiner malaprops include:

“Hello everybody, welcome to ‘Kiner’s Korner,’ I’m Ralph Korner.”

“Solo homer usually come with no one on base.”

“All of his saves have come in relief appearances.”

“The Hall of Fame ceremonies are on the thirty-first and thirty-second of July.”

“Runner on second, first , and third” (describing a bases-loaded situation).

“On Father’s Day, we again wish you all Happy Birthday.”

Yes, Ralph Kiner who passed away in February 2014 at the age of 91 was a one-of-a-kind icon.

“Down on The Korner” is a loving recollection of a pioneering post-game show that will always be a part of baseball history.

The newly released book is available at bookstores and can be purchased online via amazon.com.

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