Dec 16, 2015

Dave Kingman: Part Two- The Second Coming To New York (1981-1983)

David Arthur Kingman returned to the New York Mets in 1981, going 0-3 on Opening Day in a 2-0 Mets win in Chicago At the end of May 1981 he had a tremendous stretch where he hit HRs in four straight games, beginning with a grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies Dick Ruthven on a May 25th 13-3 Mets win.

Kingman homered in each of the three game set with the Phillies, and the first game in the series with the Chicago Cubs. After the first game,  he would hit HRs in his next two games as well, extending his streak to six out of seven games with a HR.

In that seven games stretch he drove in 13 runs & won the NL Player of the Week Award. In June Kingman hit three HRs in the first eleven days of the month just before the players strike took over. The strike lasted two months.

In his first game back he hit a three run HR leading New York past the Cubs at Wrigley Field 7-5.

On August 18th he hit a pair of HRs at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium helping Ed Lynch to a 4-0 shutout over the Braves. Kingman hit another grand slam on August 22nd in Cincinnati off the Reds Frank Pastore in a 7-4 Mets win.

He played in 100 games in the strike shortened 1981 season, hitting 22 HRs (3rd in the league) with 59 RBIs, leading the league in strike outs (105) while batting .221.

On the field he was terrible, leading the league in errors as a left fielder (7) in 49 games with a .927 fielding % & coming in second with 13 errors at first base in 56 games (.974 fielding %).

In 1982 he became the first New York Met to lead the league in HRs, hitting 37. He also set a new Mets’ single-season record, which stood until Darryl Strawberry hit 39 in 1987.

Kingman drove in 99 runs but batted just .204 with only 9 doubles in 149 games. He also led the NL in strikeouts (156) for the second straight season. He began the year with a big five RBI day in the third game of the season.

That day at Wrigley Field he hit a three run shot off Doug Bird & then singled home two more runs off Dick Tidrow in the 7th inning. On April 13th he hit a three run in Philadelphia off Steve Carlton leading to a 5-3 Mets win. On April 18th he hit two HRs against Montreal in a 7-6 losing effort. He drove in runs in five straight games that week. Overall Kingman drove in 19 runs in the first month of the season.

In May he hit six HRs while driving in twenty runs but his average fell to .218.On May 11th he homered in four runs in a Charlie Puleo four hit shutout against the Padres at Shea Stadium. On May 19th he hit a first inning three run HR off Tom Seaver, now pitching for the Reds, leading New York to a 4-2 win in the first game of a double header at Shea.

On June 19th he hit a two run HR & drove in two more runs with a double, leading the Mets to an 8-5 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.

In July, Kingman hit a HR on the Fourth of July & another the next day both in losing games. He then hit HRs in consecutive games in San Diego right before the All Star break. When he returned he hit HRs in the next three straight games, in a series in Los Angles where he drove in nine runs.

On July 17th he hit two HRs in 6-5 loss to the Dodgers where he drove in four of the Mets runs. It seems whenever he got hits, they were HRs.

In September he hit five HRs in the first ten games of the month but he struggled to keep his average above .200.

That year the Mets had the slugging bats of both Kingman & George Foster but finished sixth 65-97. Kingman & Foster combined for 279 strike outs & a .225 average. The following year, 1983, was Kingman’s last as a Met.

In the month of April he hit four HRs playing in 17 games, batting just .197. On May 11th he hit a two run HR off the Houston Astros Mike Scott, leading Tom Seaver (now back with the Mets) to a 3-0 shutout in Houston. On May 24th he hit a pair of HRs off the Giants Mike Krukow & then another the next day in a 7-6 loss to San Francisco.

On June 10th after already having driven in two runs in the game, he hit a walk off HR off Bryn Smith to beat the Montreal Expos. From that point on he only hit two more HRs & no more after July 2nd. He suffered injuries, saw little playing time & was no longer a full time player with the Mets as the team was improving.

Kingman only hit a dismal .198 playing in just 100 games with 248 at bats, hitting 13 HRs 25 doubles & 29 RBIs while striking out 57 times. It seemed as though his career was winding down as it was, but he did go on to have three more 30 plus HR seasons.

The Mets were changing & became a contender with a team full of All Stars. Kingman was a troubled soul at this point but one must wonder what his numbers would have added to the team.

In his Mets career Kingman played in 664 games (30th all time), he hit 154 HRs (5th on the Mets all time list) drove in 389 runs (15th on the Mets all time list) batted a dreadful .219 and struck out 672 times (6th on Mets all time list).

In addition he had 509 hits with 70 doubles 6 triples 29 stolen bases 211 walks & a .287 on base %.

Over the next three years Kingman would sign three different one year contracts; with the Oakland A’s. He would hit at least 30 HRs with 90 RBIs in each of those years.

In 1984, he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award with 35 HRs a career-high 118 RBIs while batting .268 with 23 doubles & 44 walks. In 1985 he hit 30 HRs with 90 RBIs but dropped to a .238 average. In 1986, Kong hit 35-HRs with 94 RBIs while batting just .210 on the season.

Drama: That same year he got into trouble with the league & was fined $3500 when he sent a live rat to a female sportswriter in Oakland. The sports writer who worked for the Sacramento Bee claimed Kingman had harassed her in the past, saying "the locker room was not a place for woman". The A’s told him if something like that happened again, he’d be released.

He became a free agent & no one went after him in the free agent market, even after hitting all those HRs the prior season. Kingman went off & retired.

In his 16-season career, Dave Kingman batted .236, with 442 HRs (40th all time), he averaged a HR in every 15.1 at bats which is the 14th best average in history.

He posted a .478 slugging % (199th all time) with 707 extra base hits (180th all time) 1210 RBIs (145th all time) 901 runs scored , 1575 hits, 240 doubles, 25 triples and 85 stolen bases & a .302 on base % in 1941 games played.

He also struck out 1,816 times (15th all time), in 6677 at bats the 14th-highest strike out total in history. His 41 errors in left field are 77th most all time. In the outfield he made a total of 53 errors in 648 games with a .957 fielding %. At first base he made 73 errors in 603 games with a .985 fielding %.

Retirement: After initially declining the offer, he surprised everyone by appearing at the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

He was greeted warmly, and deservedly so. Kong was one of the biggest HR hitters in Mets history & should be remembered for it.

In 2013 he was on hand representing past Mets, at the MLB Fan Fest prior to the All Star Game at Citi Field.

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