Player: The San Francisco Giants drafted Dave Kingman in the first round in 1970 and the USC product was immediately tabbed a can't miss prospect. The 6'6" Kingman had prodigious power, a rifle arm, and moved well for his size. He wasted little time in the minors and debuted with the Giants in July, 1971. They played him at 1b and LF and he hit .278 with six homers in 128 trips to the plate.
As the '72 season began the Giants tried Kingman at the hot corner and while he had plenty of range, his glove work was shaky. That the Giants bounced him around the diamond at 1B and LF probably didn't help the young slugger. Kingman hit for plenty of power though, blasting 29 long balls to go with 16 steals. In what would become typical Kingman fashion, he K'd 140 times and hit .225. He regressed in year three and was benched before finishing the year with a flourish. He hit 24 bombs in 351 plate appearances but hit just .203.
Kingman didn't improve in '74 hitting .223 with 18 HR in part time play and he was sold in the offseason to the Mets. Kingman's power potential developed in New York as he hit 36 and 37 HR in the '75 and '76 seasons, garnering the first of three career All-Star selections in the latter season. Even though he produced slugging percentages around .500 his output was counter balanced by on base percentages below .290.
In 1977 "Sky Kong" as he was known for his sky-high fly balls, embarked on one of the strangest seasons in history. He was hitting only .209 with 9 homers when he was traded to the Padres in June. Although he hit 11 bombs for the Padres and batted his usual .238, they released him on September 6. The Angels picked him up and after 10 games dealt him to the AL East leading Yankees. He hit four dingers in 24 at bats but due to his late arrival, was ineligible for the postseason. In December, Kingman signed with the Cubs landing him on his fifth team in six months.
In Chicago, Kingman revived his career and despite injury problems he hit 28 home runs with a .266/.336/.542 stat line in 448 plate appearances. Playing left field and healthy in '79 he had his best season. He hit an NL best 48 homers and drove in 115 while batting a career high .288. He also led the league in slugging with a .613 mark. Injuries relegated Kingman to half a season's worth of action in 1980. He batted .278 with 18 home runs but the surly slugger's relationship with the Chicago media rapidly deteriorated. The Cubs had enough of Kingman and dealt him in the offseason back to the Mets for Steve Henderson.
Kingman moved to first base with the Mets and hit 22 HR with a .221 average in '81. He led the NL with 37 taters in '82 but hit just .204. In '83 he fell below the Mendoza line and hit 13 HR in part time duty.
Released over the winter by the Mets, Kingman made the A's as a non-roster invitee in 1984. Working almost exclusively as a DH, Kingman hit 100 HR over the next three seasons with batting averages steadily decreasing from .268, to .238, to .210. During June of the '86 season he mailed a live rat to a female reporter, continuing his frosty demeanor towards the press.
After years of strained relations with the media and his teammates, Kingman was released. He found his suitors very limited but signed with the Giants halfway through the '87 season. He spent 20 games at AAA Phoenix without getting called up. Kingman retired with 442 career home runs and a .236/.302/.478 line.
Flipside: Those stats look tiny due to his gypsy like '77 season. Not only did he play for four teams, he played in all four divisions.
Oddball: Not only did Kingman hit a lot of homers, he hit them far, very far. One blast at Wrigley went anywhere between 530-600 feet depending on the reports. It landed approximately where I scribed HR on this overhead shot of Wrigley:
Photo from Google maps.
Standing on Waveland Avenue and looking north down Kenmore Avenue, the ball landed on the third or fourth porch roof on the east side of the road. Marked with red in the pic below.
History: Kingman was one of the first sluggers to survive despite hitting for a low average. As his career went on he became more and more one dimensional, swinging for the fences at all costs. His career home run total of 442 was at one time the most of any non-Hall of Famer. Strangely enough Kingman was teammates with two players who are HOF eligible who have passed him in HR totals but haven't been elected, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
In the next post I'll look at Kingman Super Veteran card and his lifetime accomplishments.