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'Ralph Kiner: 50 Amazin' Years'

By Michael Malone

Ralph Kiner: 50 Amazin’ Years, 7 p.m., July 21, SNY

There may not be a whole lot of joy in Metsville this season, but Ralph Kiner’s 50th anniversary of broadcasting Mets games certainly qualifies for a reason to celebrate. Mets network SNY offers a fun retrospective on the iconic broadcaster, Ralph Kiner: 50 Amazin’ Years, at 7 p.m. ET July 21, with broadcast colleagues Vin Scully, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Tim McCarver, among others, saluting this king of Queens.

50 Amazin’ Years looks briefly at Kiner’s Hall of Fame playing career, and his time as an A-list American hero, including dating Elizabeth Taylor after the two were set up by Bing Crosby. The special then moves on to an Emmy winning broadcast career that started when the Mets first took the field in 1962. Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy ended up covering the Metsies together for a whopping 17 years.

The special is as much about how sports broadcasting has changed in the past half century as it’s about Kiner. At one point, Kiner-who at 88 still works some Mets home day games, with an endless supply of entertaining baseball stories that are appropriate to what’s going on on the field-speaks about recreating games based on ticker tape feeds.

50 Amazin’ Years also looks at Kiner’s Korner, the delightfully cheesy post-game show helmed by Kiner for decades from a set that looks like it was built in your parents’ wood-paneled basement. Numerous players, including Hernandez, Rusty Staub and Ron Darling, commented on how much the appearance fees meant to players. “I’ll always remember the $100 bill you got,” says Hernandez, who’s currently part of the Mets’ broadcast crew. “It went a long way.”

We would’ve liked to see footage of Kiner’s infamous interview with former Mets catcher Choo Choo Coleman. (Kiner: “What’s your wife’s name and what’s she like?” Coleman: “My wife’s name is Mrs. Coleman and she likes me, Bub.”) But we did get a few chuckles out of hearing some of Kiner’s more notorious malapropisms (former Mets catcher was frequently referred to as Gary Cooper, and booth partner Tim McCarver was Tim McArthur).

The final segment, in which a number of baseball notables address the camera directly with gushy praise for Kiner, feels a tad overwrought. But Kiner’s titanic presence in the broadcast booth-in the ‘60s and today-is evident in the baseball lifers’ testimonials.

“I will defer to Ralph,” Hernandez says. “I wanna hear what Ralph has to say.”