Flushing, NY—On Monday night, a most recognizable former Met, Ed Kranepool, was seated in front of the Citi Field Rotunda. He was greeting fans in a most pleasant manner and signing eagerly desired autographs.
The former first sacker, who joined the Mets in 1962 at the age of 17, was not at the ballpark to earn a big paycheck, but was present to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol. An elevated cholesterol level is a serious risk factor for heart disease, yet it has no signs or symptoms. Thus, a blood test is the only means of detection.
The member of the Mets Hall of Fame was working with AstraZeneca, the sponsor of Cholesterol Awareness Night at Citi Field. The company is conducting this program at five major league parks in September, which has been termed National Cholesterol Education Month. Kranepool encouraged each person he spoke with to go to the testing area nearby and have his/her cholesterol checked. He explained why he was there, “I do these things a lot. I choose to give back. Awareness is the important thing in dealing with this health issue.”
Those who took Kranepool’s advice received an extra benefit for attending that night’s game.
It was no surprise for Mets fans of all ages to see Kranepool at a Met game. He has been associated with the team for more than a half-century. He was a player with the Mets for 18 years, joining them at the age of 17 at Shea Stadium, and still holds many of the individual offensive records of the club. Since his retirement after the 1979 season, Kranepool has often returned. He explained the relationship, “I still do things for them.”
The story of his original decision to associate with the Mets is an interesting story. He was born in the Bronx and lived on Castle Hill Avenue as a child. He recollected on Monday, “I always liked to compete. I excelled when I was in high school (Monroe). Scouts came around. Everyone around me [family, friends, classmates, coaches] encouraged me.”
It was a logical decision that he signed with a big league team after his graduation. Kranepool remembered, “I was a Yankee fan while I was growing up. I remained one until I signed with the Mets after my high school graduation in June 1962. I chose the Mets because it was the best opportunity for me to reach the majors the quickest.”
As there was no First Year Player Draft in MLB at that time, the decision of which organization to join was Kranepool’s. Since the Mets were in their first year of existence and only won 40 games in that season, Kranepool recognized his opportunity to be in the majors right away and also to remain in his home town.
According to Kranepool, “At first, it wasn’t fun because winning is the most important thing for an athlete. It was frustrating.”
One person of those years he views with great respect was his first manager, Casey Stengel. Kranepool was six years younger than the youngest Met player when he came up and was 54 years younger than Stengel, yet he always felt supported by his manager, “Casey was great to play for. He wanted to develop the youngsters. He explained everything very clearly. If the reporters came around, he then showed his theatrical side [speaking Stengelise].”
He doesn’t feel he made a mistake as the club soon improved. He was on a World Champion in 1969 and was again in a World Series in 1973.