Wednesday, April 7, 2010
#188) DAVE KINGMAN
Dave Kingman first became a New York Met when his contract was purchased from the San Francisco Giants on February 28, 1975. The young slugger had requested a trade from the Giants and the team granted his wish. "Fantastic," a enthusiastic Kingman responded, "I love it. I've always hit well in Shea Stadium." A third baseman in San Francisco he was brought in as a potential outfielder. "If he makes contact he can scare you," said Mets manager Yogi Berra of his new player. "He strengthens our bench and gives us insurance in the outfield."
The first season was a great one for Kingman. He was selected as the National League Player of the Month in July. His long home runs set a team season record with 36, and surprisingly he lead the Mets with seven stolen bases in 1975 as well. Unfortunately that same big swing also produced 153 strikeouts and a low .231 batting average. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it," said Kingman. "It would be easy to say I showed the Giants, but I don't bear any animosity. I'm just glad to be here...and I hope to do better next year."
Dave's popularity was evident when he was selected as the starting National League right-fielder for the 1976 All-Star Game. He also bettered his Mets single season home run record by one with a total of 37. On April 14th he stroked the longest home run ever at Wrigley Field, and one of the longest in baseball history. Kingman drove a pitch from Cubs pitcher, Tom Dettore onto a porch of one of the homes behind the stadium. An estimated 550-600 feet. Dave clubbed three home runs in the June 4th game facing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Done while driving in eight runs of the Mets 11-0 victory that day. It was the first of five times in Kingman's career that he would hit three home runs in a single game.
On June 15, 1977, the New York Mets committed what is referred to as the "Saturday Night Massacre." Legendary pitcher, Tom Seaver was traded to Cincinnati, and Dave Kingman was traded to the San Diego Padres in a separate deal. New York received Paul Seibert and Bobby Valentine in return.
The man once described by a Mets' teammate as having, "the personality of a tree stump", returned to New York on February 28, 1981. Kingman was traded by the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Steve Henderson and cash. Now only considered a first-baseman he would lead the National League in home runs during the 1982 season. His batting average of only .204 established the lowest mark ever by a home run champ. Dave also led the National League in strikeouts during both 1981 and 1982. So when the club acquired first-baseman Keith Hernandez in 1983, it was not surprising that Kingman was reduced to a limited role. He was then released at the end of the season.
Dave ended his major league career with 442 home runs. He became the first player in baseball history to hit over 400 round trippers and not be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Dave Kingman signed his card in the set for me through a private signing for Dale Nehring on March 15, 2010.