NEW YORK -- Ralph Kiner, the Pittsburgh Pirates slugger who was one of the most productive home-run hitters of his era and later became an original broadcast voice of the New York Mets, has died. He was 91.
He died Thursday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the National Baseball Hall of Fame said on its website.
Kiner won seven consecutive National League home-run titles for the Pirates during a 10-year Major League Baseball career that was shortened due to a back injury. He retired in 1955 with 369 career homers and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975, his final year of eligibility.
Few players have produced such a sustained burst of power hitting. Kiner remains the only player to win or share his league's home-run title for seven straight seasons, a distinction he earned from 1946 through 1952. He was the first National League player to hit 50 home runs in two different seasons -- 51 in 1947, 54 in 1949 -- and just the third in major-league history, along with Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx.
After seven years in Pittsburgh, Kiner closed his career with the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. At the time of his trade to the Cubs in 1953, he was earning $75,000, the second-highest salary in baseball, behind only Stan Musial.
With Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, Kiner was the voice of the Mets from their inception in 1962 through years of futility brightened by World Series titles in 1969 and 1986. Nelson died in 1995, Murphy in 2004.
The three men rotated between radio and television during games for 17 years. Murphy moved full-time to radio, and Kiner stayed on WWOR-TV, later moving to other stations that carried Mets games.
"Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history -- an original Met and extraordinary gentleman," team co-owner Fred Wilpon said in a statement. "His knowledge of the game, wit and charm entertained generations of Mets fans. Like his stories, he was one of a kind."
Famous for malaprops and gaffes, Kiner also provided viewers a seemingly bottomless supply of first-hand memories of great players, plays and games.
"I prefer the old style of broadcasting in which you talk to the guy sitting next to you as if you were sitting together in the stands," Kiner wrote in "Baseball Forever: Reflections on Sixty Years in the Game," his 2004 book with Danny Preary.