Remembering Mets History (1975) Kingman Blasts 480' HR Into Shea Stadium's Parking Lot

Tuesday June 3rd, 1975:  Yogi Berra's New York Mets were hoping for a comeback season in 1975, after winning the Pennant in 1973, they fell to fifth place in 1974.

In the off season they brought in players like slugger Dave Kingman, Del Unser & Gene Clines They also brought in veteran Joe Torre, who had been the NL MVP in 1971, but was now getting into the twilight of his career. 

The Mets traded away Tug McGraw for young catcher John Stearns who would be Jerry Grote's replacement behind the plate. They brought in veteran relief pitchers Skip Lockwood & Ken Sanders for the bullpen as well.

On this night Yogi's club were at 23-20 just two games out of first place. Tonight, the Mets hosted Preston Gomez's Houston Astros (20-34). The Astros would finish least in the NL West going 64-97. They would fire Preston Gomez in August & hire Bill Virdon to replace him.

The Mets sent Tom Hall to the mound making his first start of the season. Hall had come over from the Reds on April 15th in exchange for Mac Scarce. Hall had made nine relief appearances for New York in that time with a 3.66 ERA. Hall went up against Ken Forsch (2-2) in front of a small Shea crowd of 8,666.

In the top of the 3rd inning, the Astros got on the board first when short stop Roger Metzger hit a solo HR. 
Trivia: Metzger would hit just two HRs that season with a total of five in his 11-year MLB career (4201 at bats). Metzger did lead the NL in triples twice (1971 & 1973) & hit 71 triples in his career.
In the home 3rd inning, Jerry Grote singled then advanced on Tom Hall's bunt. Grote then scored on Felix Millan's base hit, tying up the game.
In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Mets got something going as Rusty Staub & Ed Kranepool both led off with base hits.
Then Dave Kingman came up & connected with a monstrous shot off Ken Forsch that landed in the Shea Stadium parking lot. The HR one of the longest in Shea Stadium history was estimated at 480 feet from home plate. Home plate Umpire Billy Williams lifted his mask to watch the balls flight & take off out of sight. Legend has it even Astros catcher Milt May took off his mask to watch it in awe. 
Triva: Kingman's monstrous HRs earned him the nickname "Kong" as well as "Sky King" for his high fly balls whether they were HRs or long outs.
It was Kingman's 7th HR of the season, on his way to a club record (at that time) 36. He would finish second in the NL to Mike Schmidt that year
The Mets took a 4-1 lead in the game. In the top of the 6th, Roger Metzger walked & scored on Cesar Cedeno's hit to left field. The ball was hit to Kingman, who was never known for his defense. He misplayed the low liner, then his bad throw was mishandled by Torre at third, as Cedeno was credited with a double. Next Bob Watson drew a walk & Enos Cable bunted to advance the runners. 
Yogi Berra went to his bullpen & brought in the Met top reliever after the departure of Tug McGraw,
Bob Apodaca. Apodaca got Doug Rader to ground out into a double
play, but the run scored.
Apodaca then struck out Milt May to end the inning. 
Apodaca retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. In the top of the 8th Roger Metzger hit a triple. On the next play Cedeno hit a chopper to short stop, where Mike Phillips fielded the ball on the edge of the grass then threw out Metzger at home. Apodaca got out of the 8th & retired the side in order in the 9th. 
The Mets went on to a 4-3 victory. Tom Hall got his first win as a Met & Apodaca earned his seventh save.
Shea Stadium Trivia: After the HR was hit, the Shea Stadium parking lot put up warning signs, half joking & half covering their butts, that read Beware! A Dave Kingman HR may land in certain areas. The signs were eventually lost, probably taken by Mets fans memorabilia collectors.
Dave Kingman hit 154 HRs as a New York Met; he is fifth on the all-time Mets list. Kingman hit more HRs at Shea Stadium than any other ballpark in his 442 HR career.

Quotes: Dave Kingman reflecting on his Mets days- "I enjoyed the six years on the Mets.  I'm very happy and very content.  I can't imagine making a living any other way than hitting a baseball.  When you take a good cut and pitcher and hitter alike know where it's going, that's the joy of being a power hitter."

They would get themselves within a half game of first place in mid-June before fading off to a third-place finish. Berra would get fired 109 games into the season.


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