The passing of Hall of Fame New York Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner this winter at age 91 brought a great amount of responses not just locally, but nationally. From Keith Olberman to CNN, the stories of Kiner and his malaprops in the broadcast both to his star crossed career hitting homers with struggling teams in Pittsburgh and Chicago to his brushes with Hollywood starlets made Kiner larger than life for many baseball fans.
The Mets, fully aware of Kiner’s presence in baseball lore and pop culture, quickly moved to honor his legacy, announcing the team will wear a patch in honor of Kiner on the right sleeve featuring a microphone with “Ralph Kiner” over it and “1922-2014” at the bottom. They will also unveil a commemorative logo on the left field wall and will honor Kiner with a ceremony on Opening Day as well as having a display in their Hall of Fame at Citifield for all to see.
Still some fans think that there should be more of a living tribute to Kiner by taking a section of the ballpark and giving it the “Kiner’s Korner” moniker in perpetuity. The name of the section was the same as his postgame TV show that ran for year’s following Mets broadcasts, as well as part of the outfield in Pittsburgh where he both played and hit homers for years. The campaign has head some steady flow in the social space, with a twitter handle created by fan Ed Salomon to try and get the Mets to engage in the idea. The handle @MetKinersKorner has gotten some legs and is an interesting, simple grassroots activation that Solomon hopes will actually take a eureka idea and bring it to life.
Will it work? Tough to say even if it really should. The Mets are already doing their very visible part to honor Kiner’s legacy this season, one which through the broadcast world will continually be engaged throughout the season. Assuredly their new radio partner, WOR, as well as their broadcast outlet, SNY, will also find ways to constantly revisit the Kiner broadcast legacy, as well as that of his departed longtime colleagues Lindsay Nelson and Bob Murphy.
What is interesting is the idea of renaming a section as a living legacy as Salomon has proposed. For years teams have created charity sections around current players who buy seats for their foundations that go to kids in need and other groups. The transient nature of players today makes those sections not that sustainable over time and other than some signage there is no real ROI. Now taking names of past greats or events and assigning them sections in a ballpark or arena would be different. Sitting in the “Seaver Section” or the “Mookie Wilson outfield” might just make fans be a little more attuned to seat choice and to history, and the ability of mobile apps to download some info about the player and the section one sits in could be a growing trend. It builds affinity, buzz and history and could be done on every level from college through the pros. So while the intent was for an engaged fan in New York was to create a bigger legacy for a baseball hero, the idea could actually be one that is sellable well beyond CitiField, and could add to assets and teachable tools for teams around the country and around the world. It is also an opportunity to engage with legendary names outside of a standard jersey retirement, especially when numbers these days can be changed and may not be as tied directly to just one player. The named section becomes a daily reminder of the player that can be part of the daily conversation.
Sure there are some pitfalls, such as where to place what player’s names, but section naming could become an interesting trend in sport, inspired by a fan for one of his favorite voices.