Kiner Helps Swoboda’s Hitting Slump

By Jay Horwitz

To honor Ralph Kiner’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame 47 years ago today, I want to tell a Ron Swoboda story about Ralph, then a Mets broadcaster, and how he helped Gil Hodges’ team win a key game in the middle of the 1969 pennant race.

It was September 19 and Swoboda, who was struggling at the plate, went to Kiner, one of the top home run hitters in the history of the game, for advice.

The two met in the Mets bullpen, pre-game, before that night’s contest with the St. Louis Cardinals at old Busch Stadium.

“I knew what kind of a hitter Ralph was,” Ron told me. “I asked him to look at my swing and tell me what I was doing wrong. He found something right away and the results were evident immediately.”

That evening Swoboda hit a pair of two-run homers against Cardinal ace Steve Carlton for a key 4–3 victory. There is a kicker to the story.

In the game Carlton struck out 19 batters, including Ron twice, to set a then major league mark.

“What a crazy night,” Ron went on. “We won a game we weren’t supposed to win and I hit two long balls against guy who struck out 19. After that win, a lot of us felt we were going to do something special and we owed it all to Ralph.”

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