Dave Kingman

Kingman could hit baseballs great distances, but disdained defense, the fans, and sportswriters – female writers in particular. He was a pitcher at USC before coach Rod Dedeaux converted him to the outfield. He played mostly third base and first base with the Giants, pitching in a couple of games, played outfield and first base with the Mets and Cubs, and became a DH in the American League.

Kong’s tremendous home runs (he retired 20th on the all-time list) and sweeping strikeouts (he led the NL three times), after which he’d sometimes fall in a 6’6″ tangle of arms and legs, brought him unwanted attention. People admired his strength, laughed at his awkwardness. In 1979 he tied a ML record for HR in two consecutive games (five), and most times hitting three or more HR in a game in one season (two). On the other hand, in 1982 he tied a ML record by striking out five times in a nine inning game.

Kingman was a smart and, at one time, fast baserunner, and he had a lightning-quick swing with a home run uppercut. He shortened his stroke while with the Cubs in 1979 (in the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field) and set career marks in batting average (.288) and home runs (a league-high 48). He led the NL in HR with 37 for the 1982 Mets but batted just .204. His average dropped to .198 in 1983; with Oakland in 1984, his 35 homers, career-high 118 RBI, and .268 average won him AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Kingman’s unpredictable, often antisocial behavior and one-dimensional game got him traded often; he tied a modern record by playing with four different clubs during the 1977 season. While with Oakland in 1985, he sent a rat to a female sportswriter. In 1986, though he had just come off a 35-HR season, the free agent found no takers.