As much as the 1969 and 1986 teams, a love for Kiner’s Korner is engrained into the DNA of every Mets fan of a certain age. So a new book by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin called “Down on the Korner,” chronicling the history of the old Mets post-game show, promised to be a great addition to any Mets library. Sadly, though not entirely the fault of the authors, the book is something a disappointment.
In the days before 24-hour sports networks and the Internet, it was rare for fans to hear directly from their favorite athletes, especially live, in the moments after a game. Kiner’s Korner would have been special for this reason alone, but when you add Ralph Kiner to the equation, you’ve got all the makings of a classic.
Here was a Hall of Famer, one of the top power hitters of all time and a great student of the game, sitting down with the Star of the Game, talking baseball. Nothing but baseball. Where else could you hear such a conversation? And of course, Ralph’s habit of misspeaking added a bit of mystery and excitement to the proceedings — what will Ralph say next? Will he call Gary Carter “Gary Cooper” again? Or maybe he will introduce the show with “Hello everybody, welcome to Kiner’s Korner. I’m Ralph Korner.” The list of malaprops is one of the highlights of the book.
It was interesting to learn that Ralph was kind of sensitive about his knack for twisting words around. He correctly wrote in his own autobiography “When you say thousands and thousands of words, you are going to make mistakes. I don’t care who you are.” It was clearly not a laughing matter for him.
Even more interesting was to find out that the classic Choo Choo Coleman story was a myth. Here’s how the story goes: Coleman was not the greatest interview subject, so Ralph, trying to get something out of him, asked, “What’s your wife’s name and what’s she like?” Coleman’s response?: “Mrs. Coleman, and she likes me, Bub.” As much as we would all like this to be true, Coleman says, “No, that never happened.”
There are some great behind-the-scenes stories from the show’s producers, but there are very few in-front-of-the-camera tales. The simple reason for that is because very few of the shows were saved for posterity. There was no way for the authors to go back over the thousands of hours of shows and pick out the best stuff because they are gone forever. This is where the book suffers, leaving the authors to do the best they could in attempting to reconstruct the shows.
Unfortunately, most of the players they interviewed (and they interviewed quite a few) had almost no recollection of what was said on the show. They had general memories, but rarely anything specific. So a book about the show had almost no moments from the show itself. Again, this was out of the control of the authors.
However, what was in their control was not handled well. There was entirely too much repetition in the book. For example, we are told the story of Ralph pronouncing Mets sponsor “Manufacturer’s Hanover” as “Manufacturer’s Handover” four times in the span of three pages. We believed it the first time; we did not need three other people to confirm it!
The chapter with the players telling their stories, which should have been the most interesting, instead seemed to go on forever (and in a book that was a thin 158 pages, that is saying something). It appears the players were each asked the same questions (I’m guessing by email), and for each player, the authors put in what often times were the same answers. How many times did we need to hear that the studio was right down the hall from the clubhouse? And that the studio was tiny? And what gift each player got for appearing? And who cares who came and got the player? These should have been edited to make the stories flow better. Instead, it seemed like we were just hearing the same things over and over again.
But maybe this had to be done to fill out the book, since the old film was not available. Or maybe there just was not a book here. It is difficult and unfair to criticize the authors for a valiant effort, but perhaps it should have been abandoned when they realized the material was not there.