The most difficult moment in Ed Kranepool’s long wait for a kidney transplant came only about a month ago. Some two years after it was determined the Mets icon would need one, a friend from Florida had volunteered and testing proved him a match. Kranepool was hosting him at his Long Island home when they decided on a date and called to schedule the procedure for the first week of January.
That’s when the bad news came. The friend had a prostate condition that ruled him out.
“I was devastated,” Kranepool said Wednesday night before he and Art Shamsky appeared at the Newsday campus for an event marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets and previewing the upcoming baseball season. “It sets you back because you have all your hopes up and you’ve finally gotten a match . . . It’s really hard when it is the most important thing to you.”
The 74-year-old Kranepool said friends tell him he “looks very good, which is better than I probably feel” and he regained his optimistic outlook after a couple days. He remains on a waiting list and has resisted dialysis and the lifestyle change it would bring.
“You have to be positive,” he said. “That’s one good thing that sports teaches you — to never look back — and believe that someone is out there who can step up to the plate and pinch hit for me. I did a lot of pinch hitting over the years. Now I need somebody to pinch hit for me.”
Kranepool and Shamsky, who were part of the inaugural event in the "Newsday Live" series, received a standing ovation and were joined on the dais by Newsday baseball writers David Lennon, Erik Boland and Tim Healey. Newsday will host the second event March 4, where the subject will be school security.
“Our 'Newsday Live' Live events will bring our audience into the conversations that are important to Long Island, our home,” Newsday communications manager Kim Como said. “We plan to touch on a broad range of topics, including education, the environment, health, recreation and, [like] tonight’s event, sports. . . . With the 2019 baseball season about to kick off, plus a milestone 50th anniversary for the legendary 1969 Miracle Mets, we couldn’t think of a better way to get things started.”
Shamsky and Kranepool regaled the sellout audience at the Newsday auditorium with stories from the Mets’ past. Kranepool said of the 120-loss 1962 season, “We used to celebrate rainouts” and Shamsky recalled in 1969 the fans he saw from rightfield that raced from the subway into Shea Stadium so as not to miss a pitch. They took questions from the audience and many paused to thank them for the 1969 World Series championship season before making their inquiry.
Shamsky, 77, and a few other 1969 Mets took a road trip last summer to California to see Tom Seaver and has a book coming out in March — “After the Miracle”— that recounts their journey and recollections of the Miracle Mets.
Shamsky and Kranepool also weighed in on current issues in baseball. Though neither seemed to favor the universal DH that is being considered, they agree that both the American and National Leagues should play by the same rules. Both also agreed that the pace of play has diminished the game’s appeal.
As Shamsky said, “If Bob Gibson was pitching, you’d either have a win in two hours or a loss in two hours. . . . it’s much harder to watch now.”