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Mets’ SNY Broadcast Booth Partners Conjure Up Memories of 1962

Archive   ·   January 17, 2009

It is rare that a major league baseball franchise can give their fans more than one ‘all-time’ broadcast team. Most hope to find that one special crew to call the games in their own unique style. It is rare when you can say that over four decades following the first, the same ballclub fills the television booth with another set of winners. To make that accomplishment even more special, it is a three-man booth that is being referred to.

When the expansion Metropolitan Baseball Club was looking for the right combination back in 1962, they went in a different direction. Instead of hiring familiar New York names, they inked Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson as their television and radio personnel.

Kiner was a slugging outfielder that came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 and hit 51 home runs in just his second season. He spent eight years with the Bucs and also played for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians before retiring in 1955 at the young age of 32 due to a back injury. His announcing days began in 1961 with the Chicago White Sox. Murphy began his illustrious broadcasting career working in his home state of Oklahoma calling games for a Cincinnati Reds farm team, and then in 1954, moved up to work alongside the great Curt Gowdy doing Boston Red Sox games. After a two-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles, Murph’s call of Roger Maris’ 60th home run in 1961 became part of his audition tape that landed him the Mets’ job. Nelson, who will always be remembered for his loud sports jackets, took a different route to Flushing. He started out broadcasting football games for the University of Tennessee in 1948, later did the play-by-play of the Cotton Bowl and was the voice of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In 1957, Nelson began doing baseball broadcasts on the NBC television network.

The three jelled on WOR-TV and became a sign of the times. “Kiner’s Korner” was a must-see following the game and will always be a page in Mets history. They remained a part of the New York baseball community for 17 seasons before Nelson left the east coast to work for the San Francisco Giants in 1979.

Sadly, Kiner is the only surviving member of the original three. Nelson passed away at the age of 76 in 1995, and Murphy died in 2004 at 79.

Fast forward to 2006. The Mets were starting up their own network, SportsNet New York, and needed a strong presence in the booth. The man that Murphy passed the microphone to when he retired in 2003 was none other than Gary Cohen, who was his radio broadcast partner for 15 years on WFAN. The Queens native was tabbed to be the play-by-play man on the fledging network, and none other than two heroes from the Mets’ glory days in the 1980’s, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, would flank him.

“It’s like a frat house,” Cohen said of the three-man booth. “They [Darling and Hernandez] both have so much knowledge that they bring to the table. Ron with the pitching and Keith with hitting and defense. And they have a great sense of humor.”

What sets them apart from the average broadcast team is that light-hearted approach, and Hernandez can always be counted on to bring up a subject that will encourage laughter.

“I’m never liked a dry, straight broadcast,” the former Met first-sacker said. ” I am conscious of it and do it on purpose. I grew up in San Francisco listening to Russ Hodges and Ron Simmons. They spoke about where they were going to eat on the air. When they were in New York, they would talk about the Russian Tea Room and Toot Shor’s. I always found that exciting.”

Darling, who began his broadcasting career a decade after retiring from the game and served as the color commentator for the Washington Nationals during the 2005 season, agrees that ‘stuffed shirts’ in the booth is not their style. “With Keith, he keeps it light,” he said. “It’s important to know the nuts and bolts of the game, but we’re also here to entertain the fans for three hours.”

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the 1962 booth and today’s is that all three have strong New York ties, and two are former players. That goes a long way when calling the complicated strategies of today’s game.

“They both are so intelligent and can convey their knowledge,” said Cohen. “There are plenty of former players in broadcasting, but what sets them apart is their knowledge.”

Darling, who won a 2006 Emmy Award for ‘Best Sports Analyst,’ commented, “Keith is a student of the game. He is inquisitive about the pitching side of the game. Even off the air, he’ll ask me about it.”

Hernandez has been serving as a Mets analyst since 2001 on MSG, and agrees that having a former teammate seated next to him is a big plus. “The importance of that is that Ron is a pitcher,” he said. “I was on a non-pitching side. He brings that to the broadcast.”

In only their second season together, the three seem to have great chemistry, not unlike their early predecessors. “Gary is like the rudder in the ship,” Darling said. “All those years working with Murph, he’s tireless.

“I’m like the great mediator sitting in the middle of them,” Darling continued. “Keith is old school, and Gary is like a walking museum to Met history. I just enjoy working with this group.”

“I think it’s worked out great,” Hernandez added. “There’s not any selfishness. We go out of our way to make sure that no one dominates the broadcast.”

Cohen may be the legacy from that first three-man team, even though Kiner still sits in as a guest announcer from time to time. He is a throwback to those more innocent days, and his inspiration was never very far from him. “I grew up listening to Bob, Ralph and Lindsey,” he said. “Working with Murph was an incredible honor. Bob had an ability to bring the game home in the late innings [for the listeners].”

Darling may not have grown up in the Big Apple like Cohen, but understands what those names mean to the franchise. “Anytime we try to live up to any of those guys…,” he said without having to finish the statement.

“We’re so lucky,” Darling further commented. “Last year, we went to the 7th game of the NLCS. Those guys [1962 Mets] lost 120 games. I don’t have enough talent to keep the people entertained through that. How did they keep everything so light and fun? They dedicated most of their time to Casey Stengel. [The fans] had that as a foundation back in ’62. We can’t compare ourselves to them.”

If there is any group that can come close to the long tenure that Kiner and company had, it would be this one. “Gary is the face of the Mets. I think he’ll be here forever,” said Darling. “I hope that the Wilpons would love to have me around.”

Hernandez commented on carrying on the tradition, “I would hope so. They are great announcers and Hall of Fame announcers.

“I love Ralph and I loved Murph,” Hernandez added. “We’re in a relay race and just got the baton from Ralph and Murph.”

Mets fans can only hope that this new trio is still running for many years to come.

NY Sports Day

NY Sports Day


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