Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ralph M. Kiner, September 26, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:21 - Early career in baseball / military service

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little bit about how you broke into baseball... uh, this would be...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner describes his career in baseball before he served in World War II. He briefly discusses his military service and his reasons for signing on with the Pittsburgh Pirates instead of the New York Yankees.

Keywords: Albany (N.Y.); Alhambra (Calif.); Alhambra Merchants (Baseball team); Alice Thurston (??); Dan Crowley; Eastern League; Toronto (Ontario); Yankee Juniors (Baseball team); bonuses; combat; farm system; high school; money; scouts; spring training; submarines

Subjects: Baseball players; Military service, Voluntary.; Minor league baseball.; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team); United States. Navy.

00:03:09 - Kiner's first year with the Pittsburgh Pirates / Frankie Frisch

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Partial Transcript: What were your, your feelings? I mean here you were competing against...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner describes his first year with the Pittsburgh Pirates and tells why he was able to play in the major leagues right from the beginning. He also discusses Frankie Frisch, his first manager, and his relationship with him as a player.

Keywords: Howie Pollet; Johnny Mize; competition; experience; home run title; home runs; personality; pollution; smog; spring training; talent

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball players; Center fielders (Baseball); Chicago White Sox (Baseball Team); Frisch, Frank; Minor league baseball.; Outfielders (Baseball); Pitchers (Baseball); Pittsburgh (Pa.); St. Louis Cardinals (Baseball Team)

00:08:52 - Robert Murphy and the Mexican League / voting for or against striking

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Partial Transcript: Um, let me get into the American Baseball Guild...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner discusses Robert Murphy and how he tried to convince baseball players to unionize. He talks about the Mexican League and its recruitment of American baseball players, sharing why he personally opted not to strike or break his contract.

Keywords: Barrett; Baseball Guild; Baseball strikes; Boston (Mass.); Kenmore Hotel; Mexican League; Pasquel brothers; Rip Sewell; Robert Murphy; William Benswanger; collective bargaining; contracts; guilds; money; organization; strikes; unions; votes; voting

Subjects: Baseball players; Benswanger, William Edward, 1892-; Lopez, Al, 1908-; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

00:15:52 - William Benswanger / teammates' influence on Kiner

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Partial Transcript: What, what, what do you recall of Benswanger?

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about William Benswanger, a former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also talks about some of the teammates who influenced him.

[there are loud background noises]

Keywords: Hollis Thurston; Rip Sewell; contracts; fairness; honesty; money; scouts

Subjects: Baseball scouts.; Baseball team owners; Benswanger, William Edward, 1892-; Crosby, Bing, 1903-1977; Greenberg, Hank; Lopez, Al, 1908-; Major League Baseball (Organization); McKinney, Frank E. (Frank Edward), 1904-1974; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

00:19:01 - Antagonism and the possibility of the Pittsburgh Pirates' striking

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Partial Transcript: Did they, did they... here, a lot of what I read said that the, the team...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about the antagonism that the possibility of the Pittsburgh Pirates striking caused for many players.

Keywords: Jack Barrett; Jack Hallett; Rip Sewell; antagonism; management; meetings; new ownership; strikes

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball teams.; Frisch, Frank; Lopez, Al, 1908-; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

00:22:43 - Baseball player salaries in the late 1940's

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Partial Transcript: Did... another factor, of course you've mentioned was the new ownership...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about baseball players' salaries in the late 1940's. He shares how many of the payment practices changed during that time.

[there are loud background noises]

Keywords: Bill Sockhell (??); Mexican League; minimum salaries; new ownership; officer's pay; pay cuts; pay raises; pension plans; salaries; strikes

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball players--Salaries, etc.--United States; Baseball team owners; Major League Baseball (Organization); Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

00:26:27 - Changes in salaries and unionization / baseball team owners' influence on players' salaries

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Partial Transcript: Do you, in retrospect think that, feel that Murphy's attempt to unionize...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner continues to discuss salaries for baseball players, stressing how little they were paid when he first started out. He describes how this was an influence on their desire to unionize. He also discusses how the owner of the team had a direct influence on how much the players were paid.

Keywords: A-ball; Robert Murphy; boarding houses; money; payment; television; television revenue; unionization

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball players--Salaries, etc.--United States; Baseball team owners; Labor unions; Minor league baseball.; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team); World War, 1939-1945

00:30:16 - Influence of baseball team owners / player representative of the National League

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Partial Transcript: Let me, I've got a, a number of ball players that have played with your...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner shares how conditions improved for the players under the influence of different team owners. He also discusses his being a player representative of the National League and what the position entailed.

Keywords: Billy Herman; Dreyfus family; Roy Hamey; ball clubs; club houses; enemies; general managers; pension plans; player representatives; record players; remodeling; syndicates; uniform player contracts

Subjects: Baseball team owners; Benswanger, William Edward, 1892-; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Crosby, Bing, 1903-1977; McKinney, Frank E. (Frank Edward), 1904-1974; National League (Major League Baseball); Reynolds, Allie, 1915-1994.

00:34:59 - Forming an executive committee of baseball players in 1952

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever have any, any difficulty at all with the owners because of your position?

Segment Synopsis: Kiner tells how he and several other baseball players formed an executive committee to fight for their benefits against the team owners. He also mentions the current (1979) whereabouts of several of these players.

Keywords: Jay Norman Lewis; attorneys; benefits; executive committees; lawyers; meetings; money; pension plans; suing

Subjects: Baseball team owners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Galbraith, John Kenneth, 1908-2006; Greenberg, Hank; Reynolds, Allie, 1915-1994.

00:38:37 - Baseball players' business interests / signing bonuses / product endorsements

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you about another... say, are you finished or...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about the growing interest in business that baseball players had in the post-war years. He talks about some of the signing bonuses players received and the product endorsements that he did.

Keywords: Chesterfield; Dick Wakefield; Kiner and Prince Enterprises; Paul Pettit; Ro-Fel, Inc.; bonuses; business; commercials; endorsements; local endorsements; money; signing bonuses

Subjects: Feller, Bob, 1918-2010; Musial, Stan, 1920-; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team); Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948.

00:42:00 - Local product endorsements / radio and television career after baseball

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Partial Transcript: Your concern in essence was your image as, as a ball player and, and, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner tells why he only endorsed products locally. He also talks about his career in radio and television after he ended his baseball career.

Keywords: Bob Cranz (??); San Diego Ball Club; Wheaties; World Series; endorsements; general managers; home runs; image; job offers; money; news; post-game shows; radio; stock brokers; television

Subjects: Feller, Bob, 1918-2010.

00:45:34 - Jackie Robinson's breaking the color line / opinions on Branch Rickey

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Partial Transcript: You have... in 1946 also, or '47, Jackie Robinson broke into baseball.

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about Jackie Robinson's entrance into the major leagues. He discusses the abuse that Robinson endured as the only black player in the major leagues. He also gives his opinions on Branch Rickey and his motivation for hiring Robinson on.

Keywords: Baker; California; Curtis Roberts; Kenny Washington; Pasadena Junior College; Southerners; UCLA; college; football players; harassment; hypocrites; intelligence; money; racism; segregation; softball

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball managers; Baseball players; Integration; Race discrimination; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972

00:50:53 - Impact of the integration of the major leagues / the Mexican League / Happy Chandler and the American Baseball Guild

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Partial Transcript: I sure appreciate your coming back and allowing me to continue this.

Segment Synopsis: Kiner gives his opinions on the benefits of integrating Major League Baseball. He also discusses his knowledge of the Mexican League and Chandler's involvement in the American Baseball Guild.

Keywords: Cuba; Mexican League; Mexico; Puerto Rico; Venezuela; guilds; hotels; management; strikes; talent

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball commissioners; Baseball players; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Frick, Ford C.; Integration; Major League Baseball (Organization); National League (Major League Baseball); Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972

00:55:24 - Happy Chandler as baseball commissioner / the Curt Flood case

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Partial Transcript: Talking about Chandler, we didn't touch upon him very much...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about Chandler's role as baseball commissioner and compares him to several other commissioners. He also briefly discusses the Curt Flood case, which involved a baseball player who did not wish to be traded to another team without his consent.

Keywords: baseball fans; baseball knowledge; business; court cases; knowledge; labor laws; laws; pension plans; reserve clauses; trophies

Subjects: Baseball commissioners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Flood, Curt, 1938-1997.; Frick, Ford C.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944; Reynolds, Allie, 1915-1994.

00:59:08 - Politics and baseball / barn storming

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Partial Transcript: About, gee--(Kiner clears throat)--must have been about a year after...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner talks about how politics influenced the outcome of players bargaining for better wages. He describes his role as a player representative. He also talks about the practice of barn storming and some of the other players who were involved in it.

Keywords: Bob Hausen (??); Bobby Riggs (??); Canada; Congressman Seller; Japan; Javets (??); Johnny Vander Meer; Johnson; Mexico; Seller; attorneys; barn storming; money; player representative; politicians; politics; power; television

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Feller, Bob, 1918-2010; Paige, Satchel, 1906-1982; Reynolds, Allie, 1915-1994.

01:03:19 - Benswanger and the decision not to strike / fellow players

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, do you remember Seward H. French, who was the, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner discusses William Benswanger, then owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his trying to convince the players not to strike. He also discusses some of his fellow players and whether they decided to strike or not.

Keywords: Bob Elliott; Boston (Mass.); Burgess Whitehead; Coleman; Elbie Fletcher; Frankie Destine; Frankie Gustine; Jack Barrett; Kenmore Hotel; Lee Handley; Rip Sewell; Seward H. French; ball clubs; management; strikes; television coverage; third basemen; voting

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Benswanger, William Edward, 1892-; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

01:08:30 - Fellow players for the Pittsburgh Pirates

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Partial Transcript: Uh, what can, when you say comments, what do, what would you like? Comments...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner comments on his fellow players, their personalities and their athletic skills.

Keywords: Algie Freedach (??); Bill Baker; Bill Sockhell (??); Billy Cox; Bob Elliott; Eddie Albasta; Frankie Zak; Fritz Ostermueller; Hank Camilli; Huck Gary; Jimmy Russell; Ken Heintzelman; Rip Sewell; batting practice; firing; malaria; managers; personality; quotes; roommates; shortstops; spring training; strikes

Subjects: Baseball players; Boston Braves (Baseball Team); Catchers (Baseball); Lopez, Al, 1908-; Pitchers (Baseball); Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball teams); Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965

01:14:56 - Trading and bringing in players / role of television and the media in baseball contracts

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Partial Transcript: I'll tell you, you got Jack, you mentioned him. He was pretty involved...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner mentions some of the players who were traded out of and brought to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also discusses how the advent of television made him and other players eager to revise their contracts so that they would earn revenue from those rights.

Keywords: All Star Game; Billy Herman; Billy Meyer; Bob Murphy; Dixie Walker; Hal Greg; Jack Hallett; Johnny Hopp; Nick Strincevich; World Series; ball clubs; baseball; contracts; home runs; media; pension plans; player representative; radio; radio rights; strikes; television

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Greenberg, Hank; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

01:20:40 - Major changes in baseball

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Partial Transcript: Um, again, be-- being very familiar with baseball now...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner discusses some of the major changes in baseball since he was a player, many of which are related to the advent of television.

Keywords: artificial turf; athletes; basketball; changes; football; golf; inflation; money; revenue; sports; spring training; television; tennis

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball; Baseball managers; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Minor league baseball.

01:24:23 - Standardization of ballparks and other changes / the St. Louis Browns / Jimmy Brown

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything that, um, we didn't talk about this morning or...

Segment Synopsis: Kiner describes other ways that professional baseball has changed since he played, including the standardization of ballpark size. He also tells an anecdote about the St. Louis Browns and talks about Jimmy Brown's being attacked by what might have been labor supporters. The interview is concluded abruptly.

Keywords: Donald Lee Barnes; Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts; Hearts (card game); Jimmy Brown; Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois; airplane travel; attacks; ballparks; cards; family; family members; labor; money; new ballparks; roommates; standardization; strikes; train travel; travel

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941; St. Louis Browns (Baseball Team); St. Louis Cardinals (Baseball Team)