FARMINGTON— Baseball Hall of Fame member Ralph Kiner has come home to Farmington.
The home run slugger and long time New York Mets broadcaster was interred at Greenlawn Cemetery last week.
Kiner, who passed away Feb. 6 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at the age of 91, wanted to be laid to rest in Farmington, where both his father, Ralph Macklin Kiner, who owned and operated a bakery in Farmington before moving to Santa Rita to work at the mine, and mother, Beatrice Kiner, were buried.
"It was only appropriate that when my father passed away, he wanted to come here to be with his mother and father," said Kiner's son Scott. "So in my family, Farmington is kind of home."
Kiner, who was born Oct. 27, 1922 in Santa Rita near Silver City, spent 10 seasons in Major League Baseball, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. During his short career, which was cut short by a back injury at the age of 32, Kiner was selected to six All-Star teams and led the National League in home runs for seven straight seasons from 1946-52.
Widely viewed as one of the greatest power hitters of his era, Kiner joined Babe Ruth as just the second player in MLB history to hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons, 1947-51, including 54 home runs in 1949, setting the record for the most home runs by any National League player in a single season, a record that stood until the 1998 season.
Twenty years after retiring, with a career batting average of .279, 369 home runs and 1,015 runs batted in, Kiner was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 273 votes, just two votes more than needed for acceptance in his final year of eligibility.
The Pittsburgh Pirates retired Kiner's No. 4 in 1987.
After retiring from play, Kiner began his broadcasting career in 1961 and joined the Mets during the team's first season in 1962 and spent the next 50 years calling Mets games until his retirement in 2013. Kiner was also inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.
This season both the Pirates and the Mets are wearing patches on their uniforms in honor of Kiner.
"Baseball was always his life," Scott Kiner said of his father. "You can't understand that no one has lived a life in baseball like my father. But the family always wanted to put a headstone that recognized his incredible accomplishments and to make it something special for the town of Farmington."
Kiner's headstone features an etching of his portrait from his playing days with the Pirates, the same portrait on his Hall of Fame plaque, and honors his time as a Naval pilot during World War II and his career accomplishments.
"One of his top accomplishments is being named the greatest athlete to be born in New Mexico in the 20th Century. That meant a lot to him," Scott Kiner said. "At the bottom of his headstone, he had a signature call in baseball, he said a lot of things in baseball, after 52 years he had a lot of malaprop, but his signature call for a home run was 'Going, going, gone, goodbye!' He was an incredible man with an incredible life. He loved New Mexico and I'm just happy that he's here in Farmington, finally. After 91 years he came home."