I spent many summer nights in my last years of high school gawking at the power of the man they called Kong. Back then the A's would give away cash prizes in the designated "home run" inning; a car for a grand slam. One evening in May, Dave Kingman came up in the eighth inning against the Yankees with the bags loaded and a new automobile at stake. Curt Brown replaced Jay Howell, who had allowed the A's to break a 4-4 tie. With the score now 6-4, Brown's first pitch was deposited by Kingman high up in those wonderful wooden bleachers, some lucky soul won a car, and the place went berserk.
His career started in San Francisco, and ended in Oakland. His stay in the East Bay was not without controversy, as he constantly battled and belittled female sportswriter Susan Fornoff.
In between, Dave Kingman made his name, not with a Mendoza-like batting average, but with his prodigious blasts, most notably with the Chicago Cubs where he earned his only All-Star selection in 1979 when he led the National League in homeruns (48) and slugging (.613).
“Kong” also holds the distinction for playing for a team in all four divisions (back when there was only four) in 1977: he started the season with the New York Mets (NL East), was traded to San Diego (NL West) on June 15, was claimed on waivers by the Angels (AL West) on September 6, and was traded to the Yankees (AL East) on September 15. Somehow he managed enough time with all four teams to hit at least two homeruns for each club, and finished with 26 on the year.
Kingman first hit three homeruns in a game on June 4, 1976 with the Mets, and accomplished the feat three more times with the Cubs, including a wild ten-inning affair at Wrigley on May 17, 1979, won by the Phillies, 23-22.
And on this date in 1984, Kong hit three homeruns in a game - for the fifth and last time - to help the A’s top Seattle 9-6. That night Kingman made the Kingdome his kingdom with a grand slam in the first and two-run blasts in the third and fifth innings.
After hitting only 13 homeruns for the Mets in 1983, Kingman went deep 35 times in 1984, earning him the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Not that his sister was impressed:
It's gotten so that even Kingman's Oakland teammates will delay a trip to the clubhouse between innings if it means there's a chance they might miss one of his at bats. And there's minimal movement in the rest of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum when Kingman, who leads the majors with 28 homers, is about to take his cuts.
But not all the fans stay glued to their seats. "My sister was at the park the other day, and she said she had a tough time trying to get a hot dog because the lines were so long," says Kingman. "She said the best time to get a hot dog was when I came to bat." There's nothing like a sibling to prevent a swelled head.
Dave Kingman hit 442 homeruns for his career; the last 100 came with Oakland from 1984-86.