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Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner passes away

<p>Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner died on Thursday. He was 91 years old.</p>

Cooperstown, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner died on Thursday. He was 91 years old.

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which made the announcement, Kiner died of natural causes and passed away peacefully with his family at his side at his home in Rancho Mirage, California.

Kiner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 after a 10-year career that ended after the 1955 season. A six-time All-Star, he was a career .279 hitter, slugged 369 homers and drove in 1,015 runs over 1,472 games.

"All of us at the Pittsburgh Pirates have heavy hearts upon learning of Ralph Kiner's passing," said Pirates president Frank Coonelly. "Ralph was one of the greatest players to ever wear a Pirates uniform and was a tireless ambassador for the game of baseball. He was a treasured member of the Pittsburgh community during his seven years with the Pirates. Our heartfelt sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to his children, grandchildren, other family members and many friends. He will be missed by all of us at the Pirates organization."

While with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he led the National League in home runs six straight seasons from 1947 through 1952. His best season came in 1949, when he posted career highs with 54 homers, 127 RBI and a .310 batting average and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting.

"With the passing of Ralph Kiner, the baseball world has lost one of its greatest ambassadors and the Hall of Fame has lost a wonderful friend," said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Ralph spent eight decades as a player, executive and broadcaster. He was a man who truly loved our National Pastime and made it better in every way. His legacy will live forever in Cooperstown."

Kiner, who also played for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, also made a name for himself in the broadcast booth. One of the original broadcasters of the New York Mets, Kiner hosted a popular post-game segment called, "Kiner's Corner" and was still making guest appearances in the TV booth for the Mets in recent years.

"Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history -- an original Met and extraordinary gentleman," said Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon in a statement released by the team. "After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph became a treasured broadcasting icon for more than half a century. His knowledge of the game, wit, and charm entertained generations of Mets fans. 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."

"Ralph dominated at the plate for a decade, but his contributions to our National Pastime spanned generations," commissioner Bud Selig said. "For 52 years, Ralph was a one-of-a-kind voice of the Mets, linking baseball's unparalleled history to New York?s new National League franchise since its very inception."

Born October 27, 1922 in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Kiner averaged a home run every 14.1 at-bats, the sixth-best ratio all-time and second among right- handed batters.

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