Then why is he selling?
“I just don’t have space for it,” he said. “There’s no more space on the walls, and my closets are full. I’ve given so much away to my kids and grandkids that they can’t take any more. So now, I’d rather the fans have it.”
The fans, at least those of an older generation, remember Kranepool well, even if he will never get near a plaque in Cooperstown.
Nearly 40 years after he left the majors, Kranepool still holds the record for most games in a Mets uniform. The record is in no danger of being broken any time soon.
Along the way, he also amassed the most pinch-hits in franchise history, 90. Somewhat less notably, he also holds the team record for double plays grounded into (138) and outs made (4,276), but that’s what happens when you play for one team as long as he did.
It took until 2012 for David Wright to eclipse Kranepool’s hits total of 1,418 and move into the top spot on the Mets’ career list.
“I had a 30-year slump,” Kranepool joked, “and David caught me.”
Perhaps the most distinctive part of Kranepool’s résumé is that, as a Met, he went from the ridiculous (120 losses in 1962) to the sublime (a World Series title in 1969) in less than a decade. And then, for good measure, he stuck around for another decade.
How then can a player who is truly Mets royalty, who was playing for Casey Stengel when he was just 17 years old, end up on the outs with the franchise?
According to Jay Horwitz, the Mets’ longtime spokesman, the trouble stems from a remark that Kranepool made perhaps five or six years ago to Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer and the son of Fred Wilpon, the team’s principal owner.
The remark, Horwitz said, came during an annual team dinner and apparently occurred during the period when the Mets, under serious financial pressure because of their involvement in the Bernard Madoff fraud scheme, were looking to recruit investors to buy a minority stake in the club.
As Horwitz tells it, “Ed approached Jeff in front of a lot of people and said, ‘I hear you are selling shares in your team.”’
And then, according to Horwitz, Kranepool added: “I don’t want shares. I want to buy the whole team so I can run it better than you and your father.”’
Asked about that remark, Kranepool remembered the exchange somewhat differently. Kranepool’s name had emerged around that time in connection with a group that was expressing interest in buying the Mets outright. That effort didn’t go anywhere, but Kranepool said Wilpon had made a disparaging remark to him about it.
“One thing led to another, and we had some words,’’ Kranepool said.
The result has been disruption in a relationship that began when Kranepool, as a teenager out of James Monroe High School in the Bronx, briefly made it to the Mets in 1962, the team’s inaugural season. After that, he found a niche for himself, a 6-foot 3, left-handed hitter who never had more than 16 home runs in a season and who finished with a career average of .261.
In all, Kranepool played under eight managers, from Casey Stengel, whom he loved, to Joe Torre, whom he did not. He played alongside some Mets who are forever identified with the franchise’s most inept moments (think Choo-Choo Coleman and Marvelous Marv Throneberry) and with others (think Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw and Cleon Jones) who were among the best to wear the team’s uniform.
Kranepool saw it all, earned the nickname Steady Eddie and was eventually inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame.
And in the years after Citi Field opened in 2009, he was paid by the team to socialize with fans in the luxury suites. Then came the confrontation with Jeff Wilpon.
And as Kranepool awaits the transplant, he said, the only member of the Mets who is checking on him is Horwitz.
“Jay Horwitz is a sweetheart,” Kranepool said. “He’s been a true friend and a gentleman. He’s called me a couple of times. But he’s the only one who has. Not that I need them to do anything for me, but Fred or somebody could have called to say, ‘How you feeling?’”
“I did a lot for that ball club,’’ Kranepool added. “Don’t treat me like an outsider.’’
Neither Fred Wilpon nor Jeff Wilpon responded to an interview request, but Jeff Wilpon issued a statement through Horwitz. “Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with Ed as he battles through health issues,” it said.
These days, Kranepool walks with the help of a cane decorated with Mets logos and, he said, maintains an active relationship with the credit card processing firm of which he is a co-owner. Kranepool also collects a pension of $200,000 per year, the amount allotted to all former major leaguers with at least 10 years of service time, and he has health coverage through the players union.
As for the sale of his memorabilia, potential buyers can view it at Kranepool’s home through December. In January, remaining items will go to auction.
Kranepool said he had collected things throughout his career, intensifying his efforts in the late 1970s, when he realized his playing days were running out. As a professional athlete, he said, he found it easy enough to ask other players, or former players, to sign things. Including famous ones.
Kranepool said the long-term value of the items barely entered into his thinking back then.
“I just wanted to remember my career and all of the great people I played with and got to know,” he said. “The stuff wasn’t valuable back then.’’
Kranepool said the one item that had truly sentimental value for him, a baseball signed by every member of the Mets’ 1969 championship team, was no longer in his possession. He said it had been given to a family member years ago. But Kranepool still wears his 1969 World Series ring, although for a while, he said, he thought about selling it.
Kranepool’s immediate concern is recovering from an infection in a bone in his left foot so that he can have the kidney transplant.
Because of his age, Kranepool has chosen to seek a donor privately rather than be placed on a waiting list, which could take up to five years. His son, Edward Keith Kranepool, 48, has volunteered to provide a kidney, but has yet to be screened for compatibility. And since Kranepool’s health struggles became public this year, some longtime fans of the Mets have come forward to offer help.
At least one offered to donate a kidney, Horwitz said, and he forwarded that person’s name to Kranepool.
“It was just some random fan who called and said he wanted to help Eddie,” said Horwitz, who declined to identify the person.
“I’m O.K. for now,” Kranepool said. “I don’t need dialysis yet, and I’d rather not get to that point because you don’t have much of a life like that.”
His connections with other Mets of his era remain strong. He said that he regularly received calls from Ron Swoboda and Ed Charles and that he was recently invited to lunch by Art Shamsky. All were part of the 1969 championship team. Kranepool said he even got a call from his first big-league roommate, Frank Thomas, who was 33 when he was paired with the teenage Kranepool in 1962.
“We didn’t have much in common at the time, but he treated me great,” Kranepool said. “Hey, why not? We were teammates. We were New York Mets.”