Interview with Ralph M. Kiner, September 26, 1979

Project: A. B. "Happy" Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Ralph M. Kiner was born in New Mexico and grew up in California. He played in Major League Baseball and was later the announcer for the New York Mets. In this interview, Ralph Kiner discusses his signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1940, his minor league career and military service. He describes spring training in 1946, his first major league homerun, his first game in Pittsburgh, and Frankie Frisch, both as a manager and as a person. He tells how he met Robert Murphy in Boston and describes an offer he received to play in the Mexican League, also mentioning the Pittsburgh Pirates players' strike, William Benswanger as both a team owner and a person and the sale of the Pirates in 1947. He talks about the influence of Hank Greenberg and Al Lopez, the divisiveness of the labor issue for the Pirates and players Rip Sewell, Jack Hallett, Jack Barrett, and Elbie Fletcher. He describes the players' pension plan and the minimum salary issue, also discussing Bill Salkeld, major league and minor league salaries in the 1940s and 1950s and the profits of the team owners, mentioning his own 1946 salary. He discusses Bing Crosby as a member of the syndicate that owned the Pirates, his (Kiner's) being a player representative in 1951, difficulties with the owners over the funding of the players' pension plan in 1952, Hank Greenberg, Allie Reynolds, Kiner and Prince Enterprises and player endorsements. He discusses his interest in the San Diego general manager's position, his involvement in radio and television after his playing career, the reaction of his teammates to Jackie Robinson, his relationship with Robinson and the abuse that was often directed at the latter. He discusses Curtis Roberts, Ralph Baker, Branch Rickey as both a negotiator and general manager, and integration's effect on baseball. He discusses the Mexican League offers to him, the response of Pirates' management to the threatened players' strike, his recollections of Chandler, changes in the role of baseball commissioner, the challenge to the Reserve Clause, and the practice of barnstorming. He discusses various Pirate teammates: Lee Handley, Jack Berry, Frankie Gustine, Burgess Whitehead, Elbie Fletcher, Bob Elliot, Billy Cox, Jim Russell, Frank Zak, Al Gionfriddo, Al Lopez, Hank Camelli, Bill Baker, Bill Salkeld, Frank Ostermueller, Eddie Albosta, Ken Heintzelman, Jack Hallett, and Hank Greenberg. He gives his views on the effect of television on baseball, also discussing negotiations with owners over players' share of radio and television revenues, and changes in baseball such as expansion and artificial turf, the decline of the minor leagues, travel, and new ballparks. Other topics covered include the proposed move of the St. Louis Browns to Los Angeles in 1941 and traveling by train.

Interview Accession

1979oh269_chan065

Interviewee Name

Ralph M. Kiner

Interviewer Name

William J. Marshall

Interview Date

1979-09-26

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Kiner, Ralph M. Interview by William J. Marshall. 26 Sep. 1979. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Kiner, R.M. (1979, September 26). Interview by W. J. Marshall. A. B. "Happy" Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Kiner, Ralph M., interview by William J. Marshall. September 26, 1979, A. B. "Happy" Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7jq23qx51m