If anyone defines a Mets first baseman, it would be Ed Kranepool. No one has spent more time in a Mets uniform than 'Steady Eddie", and because of his longevity, he is definitely one of the greatest first basemen the Mets have ever had.
A Bronx native, Kranepool was drafted out of high school by the Mets at just 17 years old. He hit well in the minor leagues and received a late season call-up in 1962.
In 1963, Kranepool originally split time at first base with Marv Thorneberry, but when Thoneberry was demoted to the minor leagues, Kranepool became the everyday right fielder until he was demoted himself in July due to his lack of offense. He was brought back up in September and hit well enough to get his average above .200.
In 1964, Kranepool started the season in right field, but when Joe Christopher started to hit well, Kranepool was again demoted to the minor leagues, only to see himself called back up after only 15 games. He then played the rest of the season at first base and finished with a .257 average, 10 home runs and 45 RBI.
In 1965, Kranepool gave up his original number 21 to the legendary Warren Spahn and switched to his more familiar number 7. He made his only All-Star team that year as the lone Mets representative and finished with a .253 average, 10 home runs and 53 RBI.
A year later, Kranepool led the team with a career high 16 home runs to go along with 57 RBI and a .254 average. That year, the Mets avoided finishing in last place for the first time ever.
Kranepool's 1967 season was similar, as he finished with a .269 average, 10 home runs and 54 RBI. A year later, with Gil Hodges managing the team, a platoon system was established, which cut into everyone's playing time including Kranepool.
Starting that year and throughout Hodges' managerial tenure before his death, Kranepool only started against right-handed pitchers. He struggled that year, batting just .231 and only had 3 home runs and 20 RBI.
1969 was definitely the most fun season of Kranepool's career, as the Miracle Mets won the World Series. Platooning with Donn Clendenon, Kranepool batted just .238 for the year with 11 home runs and 49 RBI. However, he was clutch when it mattered, as evidenced by the home run he hit in Game 3 of the World Series.
1970 was not as fun for Kranepool. He was batting .118 through June and got sent to the minor leagues. He considered retirement, but decided to accept the assignment. He ended up getting called back up, but didn't play much at the end of the season. As a result, he only had 47 at-bats all year with a .170 average and just three RBI.
In 1971, Kranepool bounced back and had one of his best seasons. He raised his average to .280 and finished with 14 home runs and a career high 58 RBI. The 1970 demotion turned out to be a turning point for Kranepool, as he became a good utility hitter that could play both first base and the outfield.
Kranepool put up his more typical numbers in 1972 with a .269 average, 8 home runs and 34 RBI. In 1973, he lost his starting job at first to John Milner, but still played in 100 games while backing up both Milner and Cleon Jones in left field. Kranepool only made one appearance in the 1973 NLCS against the Reds and drove in the first two runs of the series-clinching game. He was hitless in three at-bats in the World Series that year against the A's.
By 1974, Kranepool started playing more in the outfield in a utility role. He also became a successful pinch-hitter. He finished the season with a .300 average, 4 home runs and 24 RBI.
He was even better in 1975, as he batted a career high .323 along with 4 home runs and 43 RBI. His .370 OBP that year was also a career high.
After the 1975 season, original Mets owner Joan Payson passed away, and Kranepool was the only Mets player to be invited to her funeral.
Kranepool returned as the starting first baseman in 1976 and batted .292 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI. However, he went back to the bench after that season.
1977 would turn out to be Kranepool's last strong season, and he finished with a .281 average, 10 home runs and 40 RBI.
By 1978, almost all of Kranepool's 1969 teammates had been traded away, and by 1979, Jerry Koosman was traded as well, which left Kranepool as the lone 1969 representative left on the team. He did not hit as well in both 1978 and 1979 by batting .210 and .232 respectively and combining for five home runs and 36 RBI in the last two seasons of his career.
After 1979, Kranepool decided to retire at just 34 years old. At the time, he held eight team records, three of which remain records today. Those include at-bats (5,436), hits (1,418) and total bases (2,047). He has also played in more games (1,853) than any other Met.
With an over 500 game gap behind Kranepool and Bud Harrelson, who is second with 1,322 games played, this record could last for many more years. It's quite a testament to Kranepool's longevity with the Mets.
After retiring, Kranepool became interested in buying part of the team when the late Joan Payson's family decided to sell the franchise after 1979. However, Kranepool and his group lost to Fred Wilpon and Doubleday & Co.
Kranepool has since become a stockbroker and restaurateur in the post-baseball phase of his life. He was inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame in 1990, and still makes occasional appearances at Mets games. Only someone as devoted as Kranepool would do as much as he has for the Mets for fifty years.
Ed Kranepool never produced huge numbers for the Mets, but he was a reliable player and arguably the "Iron Man" of the Mets' franchise. His 18 seasons in a Mets uniform speak for itself, and few others have made an impact on the Mets as much as he has since 1962.