Nov 7, 2015

New York Mets Hall of Fame Member: Ed Kranepool: (Part One- The Sixties)

Edward Emil Kranepool was born in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, New York on November 8, 1944.

His father was killed in France during World War II leaving behind Ed’s mother who was pregnant with him. A neighbor became the closest thing he had to a father, & practiced baseball with young Eddie every day. He started out as a pitcher but turned outfielder after he broke his arm when an opposing player tripped him.

He attended James Monroe High School, in the Soundview section of the Bronx at 172nd St. He was a star basketball & baseball player there, breaking former big leaguer Hank Greenberg’s school HR record. He hit the ball so far, a tree beyond the outfield was named Eddies Tree after he had hit so many balls off of it. With many scouts perusing him, the hometown expansion Mets, were dying for a homegrown player.

At age 17, He signed with the Mets at age seventeen for a staggering $85,000, by the expansion New York Mets as a bonus baby. He went from A ball right to AAA in 1962 batting .301. He then flew out to Los Angeles to join the Mets club in September.

On his first day in a Mets uniform he watched Sandy Koufax blank his team. He made his MLB debut going hitless as a pinch hitter on September 22, 1962 at the Polo Grounds against the Chicago Cubs. He only played in three games getting his first career hit in his second game. He began his career wearing the uniform number 21 and the teenage was known as Kid Kranepool.

Kranepool was a cocky kid at first & was sensitive about the comments of his young age. The press followed him looking for a story, trying to make him the Mets first homegrown star, even the young ladies flocked around him like a rock star. In 1962 he was kept out of a first base job early on by the popular "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry. When manager Casey Stengel was asked why Kranepool was on the bench he replied “he’s only 17 but he runs like he’s 30”.

At the start of the 1963 season, Kranepool became the Mets' full time first baseman, as Throneberry got demoted.

On April 19th he hit his first career HR against Bob Shaw of the Milwaukee Braves, at age 18 he is the youngest Met to ever hit a HR. He finished out the month batting .300 but by the end of June he was batting just .190 & was sent back down to the minors.

Tim Harkness took over the first base job. He hit .310 in 53 games at AAA Buffalo & was brought back up in September. He finished the season batting .209 with 2 HRs 12 doubles & 14 RBIs.

In 1964 he pulled a hamstring in Spring Training, causing Casey Stengel to remark “What 19 year old kid pulls a hamstring?.” He played only 15 games in the minors & hit above .350 finally showing he was ready to stay in majors. He was called back up the Mets team on May 31st, to play both ends of a double header against the San Francisco Giants at the new Shea Stadium.

After the second game went 23 innings that ended at 11:20 PM, Kranepool said "I wish we could have played another forty minutes. That way, I could always say I played in a game that started in May and ended in June."

In June he had a thirteen game hit streak which kick started his season, at the end of that streak he also drove in runs in five straight games. On August 14th he hit two HRs in a Mets loss to the Phillies at Philadelphia. On August 23rd, he had a game winning walk off base hit against the Chicago Cubs, bringing the Shea crowd to their feet with joy.

On August 26th he drove in two runs at Cincinnati helping the Mets to a 3-1 win. The next day at Wrigley Field in Chicago he had three hits with a HR & three RBIs in a wild 12-10 Mets win over the Cubs. 

On September 4th. with the Mets behind to the Los Angles Dodgers in the 5-2 in the 8th inning they began a comeback rally. Kranepool's single drove in the first run of the inning, he then scored on costly error in left field with the tying run. The Mets went on to beat the Dodgers 6-5.

On September 23rd he doubled off former Met Roger Craig in the home seventh ruining the shutout bid. He then scored what was the winning run on a Ron Hunt double as New York beat the soon to be World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Eddie did better that season, raising his average to .257,with a .310 on base %, hitting 10 HRs with 19 doubles & 45 RBIs.

1965 was his first full season, and that year he changed his uniform number to his familiar #7. That year the Mets acquired veteran pitcher Warren Spahn, who wanted to wear his old Braves uniform number 21. Kranepool began the year with a great start; he hit safely in his first twelve games & drove in 11 runs on the month.

At the end of April he was leading the league in batting .418. On April 24th he hit two HRs against the Giants Jack Sanford in a 7-6 Mets win at San Francisco. On May 9th in a game against the Milwaukee Braves, the Mets staged a three run comeback in the home 7th inning. Kranepool tied up the game walking with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the 9th he singled home the game winning walk off run scoring Charley Smith.

On May 24th he helped Warren Spahn notch another career victory, as he tripled & homered, driving in three runs in a 6-2 Mets win over the Phillies. He would have two more three RBI days at the start & end of June. At the All Star break he was hitting .287 with 7 HRs & 36 RBIs getting named to the All Star Game in Minnesota, although he did not play.

For the 1965 season he played in 153 games, led the team in batting (.253), hit a career high 24 doubles, with 10 HRs 55 RBIs & 8 sacrifice flies (4th in the NL). At first base he was in the league’s top five in fielding %, assists & put outs. An underrated first baseman, Kranepool was among the league leaders in these categories for most of the mid sixties.

In 1966 the Mets manager Wes Westrum had promised Kranepool the starting first baseman’s job. But as usual someone new came along, the Mets acquired the slugging Dick Stuart but his defense was so bad he was known as Dr. Strang Glove. He didnt last long in New York, as he was gone by June. In the second game of the season Kranepool hit a first inning two run HR At Shea Stadium, to lead the Mets to a 3-1 victory over the Braves who had just relocated to Atlanta.

On April 23rd Kranepool hit a pair of HRs driving in all four Mets runs in a 5-4 loss to the Braves in their new ballpark. But he struggled at the plate as did Stuart & was hitting just .199 in mid June. He had a good series on a road trip to Chicago in late June, where he hit a three run HR & then the next day, drove in three more runs in the second game of a double header.

He returned to Shea Stadium to drive in runs in three straight games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. By the end of August he had raised his average up to .250 after a few good hitting road trips.

He closed out the 1966 season with a two run HR in the last game of the season, as the Mets finished 66-95 in ninth place. On the season he led the club in HRs (16) games played (146) & tied Cleon Jones for second place in RBIs (57). He batted .254 with a .316 on base % & 15 doubles. At first base he posted a .992 fielding %.

In 1967 Kranepool was maturing, he & his wife moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island and planned to start a family. On May 2nd, he hit a HR against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, tying up the game at one all.

In the top of the 12th Willie Mays put the Giants ahead 2-1, but in the bottom of the inning Kranepool tripled to tie the game, which the Mets won on a John Sullivan base hit.

Kranepool went on a twelve game hit streak in May & got his average up to .379 at one point, he hit well enough to stay over .300 into mid July. On July 3rd, in another big game against the former NL New York Giants, Kranepool was the hitting star. He blasted a three run HR off Bobby Bolin helping rookie Tom Seaver to an exciting victory. That month he hit five HRs & drove in seventeen runs having his biggest month of the season.

In mid August a hot streak had him get nine hits with six RBIs over a four game span against Philadelphia & Pittsburgh.

On the season he kept his stats in the same ballpark, batting .269 with 10 HRs 17 doubles and 54 RBIs (second on the club to Tommy Davis). He posted his best on base % up to that point of his career at .321% as well. For the third straight season he led the club in intentional walks with a career high 15.

That year the Mets finished tenth 61-101, as Manager Wes Westrum resigned toward the end of the season & Salty Parker took over in the final two weeks.

The following year things began to change, as Gil Hodges took over as manager. Kranepool struggled in the first two months, he was hitting just .207 & did not drive in a run until May 30th. He would not hit a HR until July 14th but did get his average up to .265 by August. Offensively for Eddie, 1968 was a bad year as he only hit .230 with three HRs posting a .290 on base % in 127 games. Defensively though he posted his best fielding % to date (.994) & made only six errors in 113 games at first base.

Quotes: The Mets were a better team in 1969 & Eddie was asked if the Mets had a chance of winning the World Series before the season began. He said "The Mets have as much of a chance to win the World Series as Man has of landing on the Moon." Both things did happen in that Miracle Season of 1969.

Kranepool began the season at first base and drove in two runs in the second game of the season, helping in a 9-5 win over the expansion Montreal Expos. Over a five game span he drove in seven runs in the first road trip of the season. He had a good month of April, as he drove in 15 runs and was batting .310 at the end of the month. On April 29th he hit two solo HRs scoring both runs in the 2-0 win over the Montreal Expos at Jarry Park.

On June 3rd in the first game of a double header against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium, Kranepool once again hit two HRs in a game. His three RBIs led the Mets & Tom Seaver to a 5-3 win.

On June 15th, the Mets acquired slugger Donn Clendenon in a trade with the Montreal Expos. From this point on, he & Kranepool would share time at first base in Gil Hodges platoon system.

On July 8th in a matinee battle with the first place Chicago Cubs, Kranepool finished off a 9th inning rally against future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins. He singled to left centerfield with the walk off game winning hit, as Cleon Jones who had just doubled home two runs, scored bringing the Mets closer to first place. Kranepool had a good July, driving in twelve runs in the 18 games he played in that month, including a four RBI day on July 30th against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium.

On September 18th in a pitcher’s duel between Tom Seaver & the Expos Bill Stoneman, it was Kranepool who singled in the 1st inning to score Tommie Agee with the first run. He then homered in the home 8th inning giving New York the 2-0 win. In the final eight games Kranepool played in to end the 1969 season, the Mets won seven of them.

On the season he hit .238 with 11 HRs, two triples, nine doubles a .307 on base % and 49 RBIs. In 106 games at first base he posted a .993 fielding % (5th in the league) making just six errors in 879 chances.

Post Season: Kranepool played all three games of the 1969 NLCS vs. the Atlanta Braves due to the pitching matchups. He had one hit in Game #1, and drove in the first run of the Mets Game #2, 11-6 victory. He had another hit in Game #3 finishing the NLCS batting .250 (3-12) driving in one run, scoring two runs & drawing a walk.


In the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles he only played in Game #3, getting the start in the first World Series game played at Shea Stadium. He had his moment in the sun hitting a solo 8th inning HR off the Orioles Dave Leonhard. He went 1-4 in the 5-0 Mets win.

After the World Series he enjoyed success after all his year playing on bad ball clubs. He got to go on the Ed Sullivan Show with the team & ride down Broadway in the ticker tape parade. After the season ended he & Ron Swoboda opened a bar/restaurant called The Dugout in Amityville, Long Island.

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