Nov 11, 2020

Ed Kranepool: Mets Team Hall of Famer- Part Two (The Seventies)

By the seventies the outspoken Eddie Kranepool was chosen as the Mets Players Representative in the early days of the Players association & union. He also held out for a raise after the '69 Championship season, getting a $12,000 increase.

It was no secret that Kranepool & Gil Hodges would but heads at times. In Spring Training 1970 the Mets had a kid named Mike Jorgensen as well as Art Shamsky both contending for the first base job.

Rumors of Kranepool getting traded to Atlanta for Joe Torre circulated but never came about. He was also mentioned in a trade for Dick (Ritchie) Allen at one point that season, but that did not materialize.

Then on the field in 1970 Kranepool struggled mightily, hitting only .118 in 26 games, when on June 23rd when he was sent down to AAA Tidewater. Eddie was devastated, and even considered retiring at his young age of 26.

 Mets Owner Joan Payson favored Eddie since he was a teenager & he was liked by M. Donald Grant the teams GM as well. No trade ever materialized, although he was placed on waivers at one point but luckily was left unclaimed.

He worked hard and made the best of his abilities, batting .310 with 7 HRs & 45 RBIs in 47 games played at AAA Tidewater. His hard work and determination got him back into the Mets lineup by August. He also was humbled after having been sent down. On the year he hit just .179 with 8 hits in 47 at bats.

In 1971, after Spring Training he felt manager Gil Hodges still doubted him. He knew the media still was saying he was washed up, but Steady Eddie was ready for his best season. He had nothing to lose at that point & turned it all around. In May he got into a dugout fight with a young Tim Foli, after Kranepool refused to throw to Foli in a pre game warm. He hit four HRs that month although he played in just four games & hit .330.

Eventually he gained a new respect for his manager Gil Hodges & had one of his best seasons, redefining his career. At the end of May into June he hit safely in 20 of 24 games, with a thirteen game hit streak in the middle of it all. 

On June 24th he singled in Montreal off Bill Stoneman tying up a pitcher's duel between Stoneman & Tom Seaver. Seaver helped his own cause by hitting a HR for the 2-1 win. Kranepool closed out the month with HRs in back to back games.

He was batting over .300 into early July, and although not on the All Star ballot he came close as a write in candidate. In the final week of August into September he had a nine game hit streak, driving in eight runs. He helped the Mets stay in the pennant race in September hitting four HRs with eleven RBIs & six multiple hit games.

They ended up finishing tied for third place 83-79 14 games out. Kranepool finished the year hitting his career best up to that point (.280) with a .340 on base %.

He also had career highs in RBIs (58) runs scored (61) & triples (4). He tied Cleon Jones for team lead with 14 HRs & hit 20 doubles. On the field he led the National League with a .998 fielding % at first base.

In 1972 everything changed in the organization after Gil Hodges suddenly passed away due to a fatal heart attack at the end of Spring Training. 

The team leadership was gone & the atmosphere was different. Kranepool as many said new manager Yogi Berra was “a fun loving guy & liked by the players. He was very easy going but not with the leadership of a Gil Hodges. The inmates can’t run the asylum”. He felt the Mets would have won more pennants if Hodges hadn’t passed away.

That season the Mets also parted ways with Donn Clendenon giving Kranepool all the playing time at first base to start the year.

On an emotional Opening Day, when the Mets retired Gil Hodges uniform #14, Kranepool hit a two run 8th inning HR off Pittsburgh’s Doc Ellis, leading the Mets & Tom Seaver to a 4-0 shutout.

On May 11th he hit a solo HR off the Dodgers Bill Singer in the first game of d double header, helping in the 2-1 Met win. But in mid July he was batting .200 when he saw less playing time with a young John Milner coming up & veteran Jim Beauchamp on the club.

In the final two weeks of August he hit three HRs driving in eight runs but showed no power in September. He still played in 122 games hitting .269 with 8 HRs 15 doubles & 34 RBIs, posting a .336 on base %. 

At first base he had a .996 fielding % (second in the NL), making only three errors in 108 games.

In 1973 he suffered injuries as did so many other Met regular players. The Mets young slugger John Milner was struggling in the outfield & was better suited for first base.

Eddie once again did what he had to do to remain in the lineup. He began to play more outfield positions & started his successful career as a pinch hitter. Early in the year on April 22nd he drove in four runs against the Houston Astros in a wild 13-3 Mets win at Shea.

In the first two weeks of May he had 11 hits raising his average up above .300. He also drove in runs in six of nine games. On June 12th he hit a 6th inning two run HR off Hall of Famer Juan Marichal to lead the Mets to a 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. On June 24th he hit a pair of doubles, driving in three runs off the Pirates Bob Moose leading Tom Seaver & the Mets to a 5-3 win at Three Rivers Stadium.

On the 31st of August in the second game of a double header in St. Louis, Kranepool singled in the 6th inning to tie the game. In the top of the 10th he singled home another run in the Mets three run inning, leading to a 6-3 win. In the week of August 28th to September 4th he only had four hits but drew eight walks, scoring six runs & driving in six more runs. In September he drove in just two runs, and was limited to a pinch hitting role in the final two weeks of the season.

It was during a late season team meeting given by prim & proper Mets General Manager M. Donald, when Tug McGraw yelled out “You Gotta Believe” as the rally cry was born.

As the teams player Rep. Kranepool told McGraw he should clear the air so as Grant wouldn’t think he was being mocked. Of course the stuffy GM felt that he was being poked fun at, but all was fine as the Mets began to win. They began to make noise in their incredible September stretch run to chase the pennant. 

On September 1st the Mets were 63-71 in fourth place but just 4.5 games back in the standings. They went on to win the Eastern Division, the NLCS & went to the World Series. In the Mets 1973 pennant season Kranepool batted .239 with one HR, 12 doubles a .310 on base % & 35 RBIs playing in 100 games (284 at bats).

1973 Post Season: 
NLCS: In the 1973 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, Kranepool did not appear until the deciding Game #5. 

That day he got the start in left field, as Cleon Jones moved over to right replacing the injured Rusty Staub. Staub had to sit down after injuring his shoulder crashing into the wall in Game #4.

In the home 1st inning, Kranepool singled with the bases loaded driving in Felix Millan & Cleon Jones. The Shea fans went wild, feeling a second trip to the World Series in four years. The Mets scored two runs as they never looked back beating the Reds 7-2 to clinch the NL Pennant.

1973 World Series: In the 1973 World Series against the Oakland A's, Kranepool played in four games, getting three at bats as a pinch hitter and going hitless.

From 1974- 1979 Kranepool would come off the bench to chants of “Ed-die, Ed-die” and usually answered with a base hit. He went 63 - 181 in pinch hit at bats good for a .358 average. 

In 1974 he batted an incredible .486 as a pinch hitter and led the league with 17 pinch hits going 17-35 in that role. It is the highest batting average of any hitter to have more than 30 pinch hit at bats in a season.

He was already batting .356 at the end of June when he was successful six of eight times as a pinch hitter in early June. On June 25th he hit a HR driving in three runs at Wrigley Field in a 5-1 Mets win. 

The next day he had three more hits contributing another RBI in a one run Mets win. On July 25th he hit a pinch hit HR in the second game of a double header in St. Louis.

On July 30th he got a start & his three run shot in the second game of a Shea doubleheader, led the Mets past the Pirates 4-3. From July 25th to August 1st he hit three HRs with eight runs batted in. He saw more playing time in August, and a streak of hitting safely in 15 of 18 games into September kept his average up over .313.

Over all for the year he was the only Met to bat .300 as he hit an even .300 in 94 games, with 65 hits in 217 at bats. He hit 4 HRs with 11 doubles 24 RBIs & his highest on base percentage up to that point (.350%).

In 1975 Eddie had a great start, after starting out with an Opening Day pinch hit; he would soon become the clubs main first baseman. He would lead the league in fielding (.997 %). 

In late May he had 11 hits with five RBIs during a five game stretch, raising his average to .350. At the end of May he was flirting with a .400 average. He also drove in runs in seven of none games in the latter part of the month.

On June 4th he had three hits against the Astros at Shea, & drove in the only run of a Jerry Koosman 1-0 win. In mid June he was still batting .371 with 20 RBIs having as good a season as anyone on the Mets roster.

In a mid July home stand he had two games in which he drove in three runs, leading the Mets to wins in both games. On July 19th he had a three hit game, driving in three runs in the Mets 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves.

On an August 11th night game against the San Diego Padres, he drove in a run early on, then hit a three run HR scoring Rusty Staub & Joe Torre leading the team to an 8-4 win. In the last game of the season he had a 1st inning RBI helping the cause for Tom Seaver to win his 22nd game, in his third Cy Young Award season.

Kranepool finished the year leading the team, batting a career best .323, with a career best .370 on base % as well. He played in 106 games with 4 HRs 16 doubles & 43 RBIs. 

He led all first baseman in fielding percentage (.997) making only two errors in 82 games. Eddie also had another successful year as a pinch hitter. 

That same year the Mets owner Mrs. Joan Payson passed away. He was the only player to attend the funeral & the loss him hard. From that point on he had a bad relationship with management, especially President, Joe McDonald.

In the 1976 bicentennial year he was once again the Mets main first baseman. 

At first base he was third in the league with a .996 fielding %. He continued his good hitting, batting .292 with a .344 on base %, 10 HRs, 17 doubles, & 49 RBIs in 415 at bats.

On June 18th his 6th inning HR led the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Giants in Candlestick Park. At the end of the month a three game road trip to Chicago had him gather eight hits, with five RBIs & a HR.

On August 3rd at Shea Stadium, he brought the Mets ahead with an 8th inning two run HR off the Expos Joe Kerrigan leading to a 9-8 Met win. On September 28th his 9th inning base hit drove in the winning run for a walk off win at Shea against the Montreal Expos.

It topped off a career high five hit day for him in the midst of a ten game hit streak. He closed out the year with a good September driving in 12 runs, with 25 hits raising his average ten plus points. In his final ten games he hit three HRs driving in seven runs.

In 1977 Steady Eddie led the league in pinch hits and was one of the game’s premier pinch hitters. He now had the fans chanting “Eddie Eddie” when he came out of the dugout.

As the Mets franchise fell apart, when they dismantled their players from their championship years, Kranepool was the last to go. Although much of the blame is given to M. Donald Grant, Kranepool says Joe McDonald played a big part in the bad trades of that era as well.

1977 would be Kranepools final year as a regular player. On April 10th he hit two HRs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, both solo shots scoring the teams only runs. From May 15th through May 27th he drove in eleven runs, with four multi RBI games, gathering up 12 hits.

On May 28th his double at Riverfront Stadium off the Reds Dale Murray tied up the game where New York went on to win it 5-4. In late June he hit three HRs in a week as a bright spot in a sad summer, a few days after Tom Seaver was traded. 

On August 23rd in a game against the Houston Astros at Shea, Eddie pinch hit for Jerry Grote in the 8th inning with the Mets down 1-0. He doubled to score Steve Henderson with the tying run. 

The Mets won it the next inning on a Lenny Randle single off New York's own Joe Sambito. In September he drove in ten runs playing in just 17 games. On September 17th in a bottom of the 9th inning pinch hit appearance,

Kranepool reached on an error as the winning run crossed the plate for a walk off win. For the '77 season, under manager Joe Torre, he batted .281 overall playing in 108 games with 10 HRs 17 doubles a .330 on base % & 40 RBIs.

In his first at bat of the 1978 season, he hit a two run walk off HR against Stan Bahnsen of the Montreal Expos. In April he would have two more pinch hits, driving in another run.

 In June he had five pinch hits, including a three run HR at Wrigley Field in Chicago in a wild 10-9 Met loss. He had four successful pinch hits to enter July, scoring the go ahead run in Pittsburgh, in a four run Mets 9th inning on June 30th.

In September he went three for eight as a pinch hitter, On September 14th he came to bat in the 6th inning with the Mets behind 4-3. He blasted a three run pinch hit HR off Randy Miller of the Montreal Expos leading New York to a 6-4 win. 

In the last game of the season he had an RBI pinch hit single to end his season batting .210 with 3 HRs 19 RBIs & eight walks in 81 at bats.

In 1979 Kranepool gave the idea that it was his final year. The eighteen year veteran was just 35 years old, but he & the Mets management were feuding. 

His manager Joe Torre wasn’t standing up for him & it hurt Kranepool. He & Torre were roommates & he felt he had been his right hand man for three seasons Torre was manager.

That year Eddie saw even less playing time, 82 games and didn’t hit above .200 until August. That month he then drove in runs in five of his first six games. In a start in the second game of a double header on August 10th against the Expos he had four hits, driving in two runs.

In September he hit his last career HR on September 8th off Bert Blyleven at Shea Stadium, against the eventual World Champion Pirates. 

He went three for eight as pinch hitter that month and in the final game of the season Kranepool doubled with a 7th inning pinch hit. It was his final career at bat.

During the final home stand of the year, the Mets honored the great Cardinals base stealer Lou Brock. Unfortunately they did not acknowledge that Kranepool was probably in his last days as a Mets player & made no mention of his final series.

In 1979 he batted .232 with 2 HRs & 17 RBIs. That off season he received a message in the mail of his release & he was granted free agency.

It hurt him badly that he didn’t even get a phone call. Joe Torre later said it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do in cutting Kranepool. As for Eddie he never spoke to Joe Torre again.

All Time Mets Leader: Kranepool is the all-time Mets leader in games played (1853)  years of service in a Met  uniform (18) & and pinch hits.

He is second to David Wright in at bats (5436) hits (5436) singles (1050)  sac flies (58 which is also 238th all time in MLB) & total bases (2407).

Kranepool is third in doubles (225) & intentional walks (89 which is also 156th all time). He is fifth in RBIs (454) eighth in walks (454) tenth in triples (25) & in HRs (118).

At first base he played in 1304 games (91st most of all time) posting a .994% (63rd all time) 1137 puts outs & 779 assists (93rd all time).  
Businessman: Back in the off seasons of 1964 & 1965 Kranepool went out to get a stock broker’s license. By the time he was 21 he began to have clients, numbering over 150 by 1967.

Kranepool worked for a firm & married a secretary Carole, who worked there as well. He would give players advice on stocks & walk around the locker room with the Wall Street Journal. On road trips he would even take paperwork from the office to work on.

Retirement: After baseball Kranepool made a living as a stockbroker, restaurateur and currently runs a credit card payment company.

At one point he ran a sports memorabilia company specializing in authenticity for former players & their families who wanted to sell game used memorabilia. At another point he worked for seven years at Pfizer, promoting diabetes awareness, something he suffers from.

Most recently his offices are located in Westbury, Long Island. He is still a proud resident of Long Island where he lives with his second wife Monica a Sotheby's real estate agent in East Norwich. He is still one of the Mets most recognized & popular players of all time.

Honors: Kranepool was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1990. He was a frequent visitor to Shea Stadium and was on hand for the closing ceremonies of the ballpark in 2008.

In 2009 he was on hand at Citi field for the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Championship team & returned in 2019 for the 50th Anniversary. 

Almost A Mets Owner: After trouble with with the team's ownership group, led by Lorinda DeRoulet after the death of her mother, Joan Payson as a player, he tried to buy them out in Retirement.

As the team was being sold after the 1979 season, Kranepool was part of one of the groups bidding to buy the club. Instead the winners were a group headed by Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon.

1 comment:

matt said...

In my eyes no one more than Ed Kranepool represents the NY Mets in the 60s. More than Seaver, because he hailed from NY (Bronx), Eddie will always remain for me the first and biggest Mets star. Casey has long faded away from memories and Tom is silently living out his days in CA on his winery while Eddie can always be seen not far from any news the Mets generate. I will never forget #7, Ed Kranepool 1B