Timeline: January 30, 1984.
The Mets gave Dave Kingman his unconditional release.
”I’m not bitter,” Kingman told the media. ”It’s not unexpected. The handwriting was on the wall when they got Keith Hernandez last June. I just want a chance to play.”
Since his release in 1984, Kingman has evolved into a mythical figure in Mets franchise history. On the field he was regarded for his ability to hit home runs like the one’s we — you and I — dreamed about hitting in our childhood fantasies.
Kingman caught the eye of Mets on August 25, 1971 when he crushed a Jerry Koosman fastball, sending it over the left field fence, over the bullpen, before it finally came crashing down against the Giants team bus outside Shea Stadium.
“He hit it nine miles,” Koosman told the media after the game. “It broke a window in their bus.”
Mets coach Yogi Berra chuckled, comparing Kingman’s power to Mickey Mantle. Berra never forgot the display of power, and when he took over as manager, he encouraged ownership to make a deal for Kingman. In 1973, the Mets offered Jerry Koosman to San Francisco for Kingman. The Giants turned it down. In 1974, the Giants countered, offering Kingman to the Mets for Jon Matlack. This time, the Mets said no. Finally, during Spring Training 1975, the Mets and Giants pulled off a deal: Kingman for cash.
Kingman’s first tenure in New York lasted 2 1/2 years, 315 games, 82 home runs (some of legend), 202 RBI and a equally eye-popping 354 strikeouts. On June 15, 1977, he was dealt to San Diego the same day Tom Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
Kingman’s second stint with the Mets started in 1981 with a fresh attitude and promise to “erase the past.”
He fought the label “moody” saying, ”I’m not moody. I’m private … Baseball is a job to me, not an obsession. I’m not after publicity in New York. I will fight it as I have done in the past … Everybody has his moments. When I have my sullen times, I want to be left alone. If you call that moody, O.K.”
Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in June 1970, Kingman immediately stood out among his peers. He stood six feet six inches. He weighed 210 pounds.
Kingman played 16 major league seasons for seven different teams, hitting 442 home runs and compiling a career .236 batting average. He also struck out 1,816 times during his major league career and led the league three seasons in the infamous category (1979, 1981 and 1982).
… AND TWO DOZEN MORE STORIES THAT TELL THE STORY OF A KING-MAN
- Sports Illustrated: King-size phenom for the Giants (03.20.1972)
- Sporting News: Big Dave A King-Sized Mystery to Mets Fans (07.26.1975)
- Sporting News: Sky King Writing Tape-Measure Tale (04.08.1976)
- Sporting News: Mammoth Blast From the Past (04.14.1976)
- New York Times: Those Kingman and Schmidt Home Runs (04.20.1976)
- Sports Illustrated: It’s Either A Clout Or An Out (05.03.1976)
- New York Times: Kingman hits 3 in Mets 11-0 win (06.04.1976)
- New York Times: Kingman Wants More than Management Willing To Give Him (01.29.1977)
- New York Times: Dave Kingman’s Unforgivable Sin (03.14.1977)
- New York Times: Mets Ready to Trade Kingman (04.03.1977)
- New York Times: Frazier Threatening to Bench Kingman (04.09.1977)
- New York Times: The Best Interests of Dave Kingman (04.11.1977)
- Sporting News: Sky King Rejects Mets Economy-Flight Ticket (04.16.1977)
- New York Times: Mets trade Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman (06.16.1977)
- New York Times: Grant’s Wednesday Night Massacre (06.17.1977)
- New York Times: Kingman is All Hit, No Talk (07.01.1976)
- New York Times: Mets’ Kingman, Slugger and Enigma (04.07.1977)
- New York Times: Scene of the Crime (07.31.1977)
- Sports Illustrated: Kong! (08.20.1979)
- New York Times: Kingman Prepares to Erase Past (03.09.1981)
- New York Times: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Kingman (05.16.1984)
- Washington Post: Kingman’s Rat: Just How Funny (06.27.1986)
- Chicago Tribune: Teammates Rally ‘Round Kingman’s Rodent (06.28.1986)
- Associated Press: Kingman Living ‘Quiet’ Life (01.28.2002)