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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #500, Dave Kingman (Article 97)

Updated: Sep 28

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)

***


Dave Kingman.

“King Kong” Kingman.

He wasn’t a Yankee for long. Nope, not at all.


He played for the Yankees for a grand total of eight games in 1977. In those eight games, he hit four homers. Those four homers came in 24 at bats… a homer once every six at bats.


Not Bad.

***

Dave Kingman was a polarizing player. He wasn’t always the most well liked player. I remember him being surly.


In 1982 I saw the Mets play… in San Diego. My family traveled one summer, by van, from coast to coast. We went to a baseball game in San Diego, the Mets vs the Padres. I went by the field, this was 1982, times were different back then , and collected a host of autographs of the Mets.


I saw Dave Kingman and asked him to sign my paper. He said, “In a minute, I’ll be right back,” and he disappeared into the dugout.


He never came back.


As a naïve kid, I never understood that. He said he’d come back to sign for me, but he never did.


***

Dave Kingman ended his career with 442 home runs. He did this with a lifetime batting average of .236. I remember many baseball writers at the time being concerned that if he reached 500 home runs that he’d be a Hall of Famer.


Alas, he didn’t reach 500.


Alas, 500 homers doesn’t guarantee one into the Hall of Fame now anyway.


***

Dave Kingman hit a lot of home runs. But, he also struck out… a lot.


In a time when 100 strikeouts in a season wasn’t a good thing to do, Dave Kingman struck out 100 or more times in a season 14 times.


Eight times, Kingman batted under .225 for a season.


But, man could he hit homers.


Dave Kingman hit 25 or more homers in a season ten times. These were usually of the high, far, and gone variety.


He was a fun player to watch.


***

Here are four names of baseball players that no one has probably ever published before:

Jim Crawford, Bob Sykes, Reggie Cleveland, and Mike Willis…


Those were the four pitchers who allowed homers to Dave Kingman as a Yankee.


***

Randy Stein. Who was Randy Stein?


Some of who he was is a mystery… I love this transaction line on Baseball-Reference:

May 26, 1977: Sent from the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Yankees in an unknown transaction.”


That’s the only “unknown transaction” I have ever seen.


But, the Yankees got him.


On September 15 of that same 1977 season, he was sent with cash to the California Angels for Dave Kingman.


Randy Stein would pitch in the big leagues (eventually) for the Brewers, the Mariners and the Cubs.


***

Dave Kingman played for four teams in that 1977 season. He was on the New York Mets, the San Diego Padres, the California Angels, and the Yankees – two California teams and two New York teams.


In his career, Kingman also played for the Chicago Cubs, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants.


Kingman traveled a lot, but the only players of note he was ever traded for were Bobby Valentine and Steve Henderson… the rest of the times he was signed as a free agent or sold outright from club to club.


***

Dave Kingman is the only player to hit home runs for the Mets and the Yankees in the same season.


***

In 1979, Dave Kingman has his best year playing for the Cubs. He led the National League in home runs with 48 and he batted .288. He also drove in 115 runs.


In Dave Kingman’s final three seasons, he smashed 35, 30, and 35 homers. He drove in 118, 94, and 91 runs. But he batted only .210 in his final season, striking out 126 times.


That final season, 1986, pretty much summarizes the way most people remember Kingman… lots of homers, lots of strikeouts, and a low batting average.


***

Dave Kingman was a unique ballplayer in a different time.


He wasn’t great, but he was, often, larger than life.


#1977ToppsBiographies

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