Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Opinion of Kingman’s Performance Meets Dave Kingman

I have been waiting for this day for a while.  Yet, I entered into it with some trepidation.  I’m an easy going guy.  I usually avoid confrontations at all costs.  It’s all peace, harmony, everyone should get along with me.  I know that's pure fantasy, but I do avoid confrontation as much as possible.  I honestly didn't pursue journalism as an occupation because I knew I would be the type of reporter that would toss softball after softball to my interview subjects.  Yet, the moment was arriving.  I was going to attempt to meet the player that was the cause of the ruckus in 1978 when reporter, Paul Olden, asked Tommy Lasorda his opinion of Dave Kingman’s performance after he single-handidly defeated the Dodgers with three home runs on May 14, 1978.  Dave Kingman was making a public appearance about 90 miles from my hometown.

Dave Kingman in 1978
The infamous game
That performance by Kingman was on the Dodgers 32nd game of the season of what would eventually be their second consecutive National League Pennant winning season.  Doug Rau faced off against Dennis Lamp on a Sunday day game on Mother’s Day.  The Dodgers broke out to a 3-0 lead behind an unearned run and pair of RBIs by Ron Cey.  
In the sixth inning, Bill Buckner led off for the Cubs with a single off of Rau and Kingman belted a home run to make it 3-2 Dodgers.  In the seventh, the Cubs took a 4-3 lead behind an RBI groundout by Kingman.  In the bottom of the same frame, both Cey and Monday drove in runs to put the Dodgers back on top 5-4.  The teams traded a few more runs and the Cubs entered the ninth inning down 7-5, when Kingman belted his second homer of the day, another 2 run shot off of Mike Garman that would send the game into extra innings.
The teams were both held in check until the 14th inning with stellar pitching by Bobby Castillo, Rick Rhoden (for the Dodgers) and Ray Burris and Paul Reuschel (Cubs).  In the top of the 15th, Kingman hit a mammoth 3 run blast off Rhoden to put the Cubs on top for good.  Dave Kingman’s final stat line was:
AB R   H   HR RBI   BB   SO  TB
 7    3    4     3    8     1     1     13
It was reporter Paul Olden who posed the question to Tommy Lasorda following the loss about what his opinion was of Kingman’s performance.  Olden is currently the Public Address announcer at Yankee Stadium, (having replaced the legendary Bob Sheppard).  What followed was a profanity laced tirade that to this day is remembered as one of the epic meltdowns in baseball history.  It rivals the Lee Elia rant a few years later and the Hal McRae desk tossing episode as one of the greatest post-game managerial tirades ever recorded.
No player like Kingman
Dave Kingman is quite an interesting individual and perhaps the most unusual baseball player to ever cross the lines.  Never considered seriously as a Hall of Fame candidate due to his low batting average and on base percentage.  He also was known to have his problems defensively.   Dave was drafted out of USC by the Giants where he was not only a prolific power hitter, but also a flame throwing pitcher.  It is Kingman’s Major League total of 442 lifetime homers that are quite extraordinary when compared to his peers in the pre-steroid era.  He led the league in striking out three times, but those numbers were not nearly as high as the leaders in that category these days.  Imagine this though, the league leader in homers (37) had a batting average of .204.  Yes, .204, (not a typo) with an OBP of .285.  That was Dave Kingman’s partial stat line in 1982 with the Mets.  
Dave was traded numerous times, released several times and acquired over and over again.  Teams could not resist picking him up because of his tremendous power.  He had one magical year in 1979 that had he duplicated a few more times, would have made him a hall of fame candidate.  
Kingman, known as a surly type with reporters and fans, has appeared to have mellowed over the years and is signing at card shows and even has a fan club website.  Their website can be found at: 

It appears to be a one man fan club though.  It also states that the website operates with the “oral consent” of Dave Kingman and could be revoked at anytime.  I found that comment a little interesting.

Dave Kingman's autograph on my Feeney Official N.L. ball
So, I was reluctant to mention anything about the OKP blog that I started, out of fear that Mr. Kingman possibly might tell me he doesn’t want his name attached to anything.  What I tend to stress with the blog is that it could have been Larry Biittner that hit the 3 homers that day, and this blog would be called Opinion of Biittner’s performance.  The blog isn’t about Kingman, it is titled over the actions of Tommy Lasorda.
When my turn in line arrived and  I approached Dave Kingman, with the vintage road 1978 Chicago Cubs uniform for signature, I asked him one question, and I had been thinking about it for some time.  It was:
“Dave, what was your opinion of Lasorda’s performance when you hit those three homers against the Dodgers in 1978?”
His response was only laughter.   That’s it.  He laughed.  Then he changed the subject, without a response to the question.   “Nice jersey, let me take a look at the label.  Where did you get it?”  That caught me a bit off-guard.  “Uh...I bought it on-line, an eBay auction, um ... I wanted to find something vintage from the period when you wore the Cubs uniform,” I said.
“Nice choice,” he said.  “Yeah, they kind of look like pajamas though,” I replied.
He laughed again.  We posed for pictures and shook hands.  That was it.  No controversy, a friendly guy that was polite and signed everything before him.

Dave is kind enough to pose for a photograph with me
Heck, I should have broke out the Opinion of Kingman's Performance t-shirt for signature while I was on a roll.

Two baseballs a jersey and card, all signed by Dave Kingman today at Stockton Ports ballpark today

A closer look at the signatures

Note: I forgot to mention that I attended the event mentioned above because Roberto Baly from Vin Scully is My Homeboy tipped me off about it.  Thanks, Roberto!


  1. You should have shown him the OKP t-shirt. BTW, how can I get one?

  2. fantastic uniform -- i remember i didn't like them at the time but in retrospect how can someone not like something so beloved from their youth?