Ralph Kiner, 91, hit 369 home runs

"Like his stories, he was one of a kind. We send our deepest condolences to Ralph's five children and 12 grandchildren. Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats."

Fellow announcers such as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling always brightened when Kiner was alongside them. Younger fans who were born long after Kiner retired also reveled in his folksy tales.

"As one of baseball's most prolific power hitters for a decade, Ralph struck fear into the hearts of the best pitchers of baseball's Golden Era despite his easygoing nature, disarming humility and movie-star smile," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said in a statement.

"His engaging personality and profound knowledge of the game turned him into a living room companion for millions of New York Mets fans who adored his game broadcasts and later 'Kiner's Korner' for more than half a century. He was as comfortable hanging out in Palm Springs with his friend Bob Hope as he was hitting in front of Hank Greenberg at Forbes Field."

As a teen, hanging around the Hollywood Stars in the Pacific Coast League, Kiner shook hands with Babe Ruth and talked ball with Ty Cobb. In high school, he hit a home run off Satchel Paige during a barnstorming tour.

When he got older, Kiner got to play with real Hollywood stars. His pals included Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and he squired Liz Taylor and Janet Leigh. He also played himself in the 1951 film "Angels in the Outfield."

After serving as a Navy pilot in World War II, Kiner had a strong rookie year and won the NL homer title with 23, beating Johnny Mize by one. He really broke loose the next year, hitting 51 home runs with 127 RBIs while batting .313.

Stuck on poor teams, Kiner never made it to the postseason. He made his mark in All-Star games, homering in three straight.

Kiner connected in the 1950 showcase at Comiskey Park, but made more noise with another ball he hit in the game. He hit a long drive to the base of the scoreboard in left-center field and Ted Williams broke his left elbow making the catch, causing him to miss two months.

"Williams always said I ruined his batting stroke, that he could never hit after that," Kiner said. "Yeah, sure. He only hit .388 in '57."

Ralph McPherran Kiner was born on Oct. 27, 1922.

He first married tennis star Nancy Chaffee in 1951. Following their divorce, he married Barbara George, and following another divorce, he married DiAnn Shugart, who died in 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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