Ben Weingarten

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Category: Sports

National Review: The Rise and Fall of the New York Mets, and America

I was honored and privileged that National Review invited me to write an article about my beloved pennant-winning New York Mets for my debut in that seminal publication.

Below is a representative sample from my paean to the Amazin’ Metropolitans:

The fates of the Mets and of America were joined, embodied in the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, which opened in 2009. This characterless McMansion of a stadium — largely devoid of defining Mets-ness, save for a steroid-injected apple — was so titled thanks to a naming-rights deal effectively underwritten by the taxpayer. Like much of America’s housing stock, the Mets’ home, Citi Field would remain largely uninhabited during miserable years to come. The edifice literally rusted before it even saw its first game.

As the American economy slogged along, so too did the Mets, who found creative ways to fail en route to six straight losing seasons. Supposedly minor injuries festered and led to lost years. Management claimed it had funds to acquire talent, while continuously cutting back. The Mets’ debt ballooned as it serviced existing debt.

Early in 2015, the team’s imprudent and miserly majority owner was named the head of Major League Baseball’s Finance Committee. Was “failing upward,” as in politics, a new rule in MLB?

Then, just in time for Opening Day, Steve Kettmann’s book Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets was published. How could anyone have the temerity to argue that the Mets’ general manager, who had not overseen a single winning Mets team, had revived the Metropolitans?

Demoralized, some Mets fans even put up billboards above the chop shops near Citi Field, urging the Mets’ owners to sell the team.

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A Conversation With Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny on Youth Coaching, Faith and the “Cardinal Way”

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They Don’t Make Men Like Ralph Kiner Anymore

Ralph Kiner was born Oct. 27, 1922 in Santa Rita, N. M.

Raised in Alhambra, Cali. to Beatrice Grayson, a nurse during World War I in France and Ralph Macklin Kiner, a baker, Ralph Kiner sadly did not get to experience the boyhood rite of passage of playing catch with his father. Ralph Macklin Kiner passed away when his son was only 4-years-old. Kiner would find and fall in love with the game of baseball only through the encouragement of one of his neighbors.

As “AP” noted, these high school days were special: Kiner would hang around the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars and hobnob with the all-time greats of baseball such as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. He also hit a homerun off Satchel Paige during a barnstorming tour.

Upon graduation from Alhambra High, Kiner signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and headed to the minor leagues where he would start his career in Albany. On Dec. 7, 1941, the 19-year-old Kiner was playing in a semi-pro game in Pasadena when the news struck that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Kiner noted:

“Upon hearing about the attack, we all immediately said the same thing: You can’t do that to this country! The next day, instead of playing baseball, I went and enlisted in the United States Navy. It happened that fast.”

He would not be called into service until early in the 1943 season, while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A affiliate.

Ralph Kiner's Naval Aviator Certificate. (Image Source:

Ralph Kiner’s Naval Aviator Certificate. (Image Source:

Kiner served in the Navy as a fighter pilot, flying anti-submarine missions in the Pacific, initially as a navigator, in a time before there was radar.

Ralph Kiner was honorably discharged on Dec. 5, 1945, having barely played any baseball at all during his time of service. Kiner said:

“Though I rarely got on the field myself, I wasn’t jealous of those who did. Everyone who volunteered for the service possessed a singular focus on saving this country. I never felt like I was missing out on anything because I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. For all of us ballplayers in the service, our duty to our country was always more important than playing baseball.”

He acknowledged that other baseball greats like Ted Williams were not so lucky:

“The guys that stayed in the reserves got called back during Korea. That’s what happened to Ted Williams.

“Williams was called back. He had to serve time in the Marine Corps. He was one of the greatest hitters, if not the greatest hitter. He was more proud of being a Marine than being in the Hall of Fame.”

One gets the sense that though his Naval service reads as a footnote, this might be more attributable to modesty than a lack of valor.

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