Remembering Mets History: (1976) Dave Kingman's Big Season Start & The Longest HR Hit at Wrigley Field

1976 had some good highlights for the Mets: Jerry Koosman would win twenty games for the first time in his career. Slugger Dave Kingman would set a Mets club record with 37 HRs, second most in the NL. 

For the 1976 season, Joe Frazier was now managing the Mets, he had been successful managing at the clubs AAA level at Tidewater. The Mets went into early May at 19-9 in first place getting lots of power from Dave Kingman. He earned the nick name "Kong".

Kingman hit his first HR in the third game of the season, in a loss to the Expos. 

Tuesday April 14th, 1976- One of the Longest HRs Ever Hit at Wigley Field: A small crowd of 9,307 came to Wrigley Field on this usual day game, as no lights were installed there until 1989. In the top of the 6th inning, the Mets were leading the Cubs 3-2 as Dave Kingman came to bat with Wayne Garrett on first base & no one out. 

Kingman was facing Tm Dettore & launched a massive HR that traveled an estimated 540 feet well over the left field bleachers, past Waveland Avenue & three houses past the corner onto a stoop at 3705 Kenmore Avenue.

Kingman's HR landed on the steps of this blue house behind Wrigley Field.

A HR hit by Roberto Clemente in 1959 is estimated to be a close second to Kingman's shot. The Kingman HR is more well documented with witnesses & newspaper articles. The Mets took a 6-5 loss that day.

April 15th, 1976: This was the first multi-HR game for Kingman on the season, he would connect off Cubs pitcher Bill Bonham in the 2nd inning, a two-run shot giving the Mets a 2-0 lead. 

In a classic Wrigley Field slugfest that featured 18 runs, 22 hits & three HRs the Mets came to bat in the top of the 9th down 8-7. Tom Dettore got the call again to try to close it out.

After striking out Ed Kranepool, John Milner & Del Unser reached on base hits. Next, Kingman came up & once again blasted a HR off Detorre, a liner down the left field line, a three-run shot that gave the Mets the eventual 10-8 win.

Trivia: Dettore would pitch just two more games that season before being sent down to AAA Hawaii where he remained all year. He never got back to the major leagues, after a four year career. He eventually went to play in Italy & then coach in Australia.

Tuesday April 27th, 1976: The Atlanta Braves came to Shea for a four-game series in which the Mets swept while on a five-game win streak. Veteran Mickey Lolich beat the Braves 3-1 in the opener. 

In the second game, Kingman came to bat with the Mets down 5-1 in the 7th inning & led off with his eighth HR of the year, coming off pitcher Carl Morton. The Mets would come back & win it on a walk off RBI double by Bruce Boisclair.

Wednesday April 28th, 1976: The next night Craig Swan pitched a five-hit shutout & struck out eleven Braves in a 3-0 win highlighted by Dave Kingman's 1st inning three run HR off Andy Messersmith. Kingman closed out April with 9 HRs & 20 RBIs with a .864 OPS.

Tuesday May 4th, 1976: A Shea Stadium crowd of 18,528 fans came out to see the Mets host Sparky Anderson's reigning World Champion Cincinnati Reds. The Big Red Machine were on their way to another championship in 1976 going 102-60 in the regular season & then sweeping the NLCS & World Series.

Both clubs starting pitchers for tonight's game were off to good starts, The Mets Tom Seaver & the Reds' Fred Norman were both 3-0 up to this point.

In the 2nd inning Fred Norman lost his control issuing four walks which led to two Mets runs. The Reds got a run back in the 3rd, as Seaver himself walked two Reds & then allowed base RBI hits to Pete Rose & Cesar Geronimo. 

In the home 3rd inning, Joe Torre led off with a single. Then Dave Kingman hit a two run HR, his league leading tenth of the year, putting the Mets ahead for good in the 5-3 win. Tom Seaver went to 4-0 as the first place Mets were rolling along nicely.

Friday May 7th, 1976- Multi HR Five RBI Game:  Tonight, the Mets hosted John McNamara's third place San Diego Padres (12-11) as the National League's two best pitchers of 1976 faced off against each other. 

The Mets Jerry Koosman went up against the Padres, Randy Jones, who would narrowly beat out Koosman for that years Cy Young Award.

Tonight, Dave Kingman was the star once again with another multi-HR game. In the 1st inning he blasted a two run HR off Randy Jones, scoring Joe Torre with the first two runs of the game. 

In the 4th Koosman helped out his own cause with an RBI single to go up 3-0. In the top of the 8th Kingman came up with two on & nobody out facing Padre pitcher, Mike Dupree.

Kingman hit his second HR of the game, his twelfth of the year the three-run blast to left center field, gave him five RBIs on the night putting the Mets ahead 5-2.

 It was his eleventh HR of the young season. It turned out to be the game winner, as Koosman went the distance for the 6-2 Mets victory. He allowed two runs on six hits with seven strike outs to go to 3-1 on the year.

Wednesday May 12th, 1976: Five days later the Mets were on the road to play the Braves in Atlanta. The Mets were still in first place at 19-11 & Dave Bristol's Braves, were in fifth place at 9-19. 

The Braves pitcher, Andy Messersmith, was one of the games top pitchers in the early to the mid-seventies. He had also become one of the game's first big free agents, who had signed on with Atlanta but was struggling at 0-4. 

The Mets once again had Jerry Koosman on the mound. 

In the top of the 1st, Kingman started off with a solo HR. His 13th of the year.  In the Mets 4th, Joe Torre & Ron Hodges got aboard & a Roy Staiger & Mike Phillips added RBI hit & Del Unser a sac Fly to make it 4-0 Mets.

In the 5th Kingman led off with his league leading 14th HR of the season, a solo shot, the second of the game & third of the year off Messersmith. In the 7th inning, Kong also added an RBI double, his fourth hit of the game, making it 6-0 Mets.  The Mets would win the game 6-3, as Koosman earned his fourth win (4-1) & Skip Lockwood earned the save, his fifth. 

Trivia: Up to that point in Mets history, the team had never had a slugger like Dave Kingman, putting up such big numbers. Through May 12th, 1976, in his first 30 games Kingman had just 33 hits but 17 of them were extra base hits, with a league leading 14 HRs & 33 RBIs on the season.

Kingman would hit three more HRs in the month, all coming against the Phillies. On July 19th he got injured & misses six weeks of action or who knows what numbers he could have put up. In 123 games he hit 37 HRs with 86 RBIs & a .793 OPS.


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