- Ended the season ranked 20th on all-time Home Run list.
The Sporting News
December 28, 1984
OAKLAND--Dave Kingman, the Oakland A's premier free-agent target, has agreed to a one-year contract that is expected to pay him $850,000 next season.
Kingman and the A's reached a verbal agreement the week before Christmas, and the formal announcement was made December 21, the slugger's 36th birthday.
Kingman, the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 1984, was paid $715,000 for his first go-around with the A's. The New York Mets, who waived Kingman after he hit only 13 homers and had a .198 average in 1983, paid $675,000 of his salary, while the A's picked up the remaining $40,000.
The A's did not want to let Kingman get away, especially since they had dealt away gate attractions Rickey Henderson and Bill Caudill.
Kingman, playing mostly as the A's designated hitter, batted .268, with 35 homers and 118 runs batted in, tying the Oakland franchise record for RBIs set by Reggie Jackson in 1969. Kingman had a career-high 23 doubles and he also had an impressive total of 14 game-winning RBIs.
Shortly after the 1984 season ended, Kingman became upset with the A's when his contract proposal became public. He reportedly asked the club for $1 million in 1985 on a contract that had two option years. If he had played the two option years, the total package would have netted the slugger $3.7 million.
The A's balked at Kingman's proposal. However, Sandy Alderson, vice-president of baseball operations, talked with Kingman and the two sides made peace.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were the only team to select Kingman in the free-agent draft. Jack Childers, Kingman's agent, said that three American league clubs also expressed interest in his client. "The Pirates never came close to making an offer," Childers said.
The Sporting News
...One of the most impressive newcomers in the A's training camp at Phoenix is Brodie, Dave Kingman's black labrador retriever. The dog outruns everyone on the field. So far, Brodie has performedno tricks. "When I was in New York," said Kingman, "my other Lab used to bring me my bat."
Chicago Sun-Times wires
'Loner' Kingman just 2 away from homer milestone
The name seems almost out of place. yet any day now, there between Al Kaline and Duke Snider, on a list headed by Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth will be Dave Kingman.
Kingman's next two home runs for the Oakland Athletics will give him 400 for his career, a level reached by just 20 players in major league history.
His place among them, though, may be as solitary as he has often been.
The record books will show it, but the historians may never accept it. To them, Kingman will stand out for different reasons. With him, the similarities stop with the home runs.
He has been prolific, certainly, but not as productive as others, although his 14 grand slam homers are tied with Gil Hodges for seventh on the all-time list behind 400-homer men Lou Gehrig, Willie McCovey, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, Aaron and Ruth.
Kingman has the lowest batting average and lowest runs batted in-to-home run ratio in the 400 club. Only twice has he driven in 100 or more runs. In 1975 and 1976 he hit 36 and 37 home runs, respectively, but had only 88 and 86 RBI.
Of the 20 players ahead of him on the all-time homer list, 14 are in the Hall of Fame. Three others, McCovey, Willie Stargell and Carl Yastrzemski, haven't been retired long enough to be eligible yet. Billy Williams is getting closer, fourth on the last ballot, 45 votes short. Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt, like Kingman, are still active.
If Kingman seems out of place, that's the way his entire 13-year career has gone.
He is a one-dimensional player, a designated hitter, who more often than not has worked in his own private world, irritating teammates, reporters and fans.
baseball is not first on his list of things to do.
LOT OF FUN
"I'm having a lot of fun hitting baseballs right now," Kingman says. "But it's not what I want to do forever. I've got a lot of things I like to do besides that, like fishing, any kind of fishing."
During the season, he lives aboard his 43-foot yacht in Alameda, Calif.
He has played with seven different teams, including the New York Mets twice. In a space of three months in 1977, he played for four teams in four different divisions--the Mets, the San Diego Padres, the California Angels and the New York Yankees. He homered for each of them and is the only man in history to complete that odd combination.
But if his power has not been questioned, his desire has.
Joey Amalfitano, now a coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was Kingman's manager for 1 1/2 seasons with the Chicago Cubs and before that was a coach on Kingman teams in San Francisco and San Diego.
It was with Chicago in 1979 that Kingman enjoyed his best season--48 home runs, 115 RBI and a .288 batting average.
"He's a very private person," Amalfitano says, "He's really into boating and fishing and it seems at times that baseball isn't his No. 1 priority. Don't get me wrong. I like the guy and got along with him real well. But sometimes it didn't seem baseball was No. 1."
Tom Seaver, who played with Kingman on the Mets, and A's manager Jackie Moore say the surliness and frequent refusal to talk to reportes are misunderstood.
"He's a very intense person," Seaver says. "He's very demanding, especially on himself. He's also a very sensitive guy."
Adds Moore: "He's a little bit shy sometimes, but he's a quality individual."
A few years ago, it looked like Kingman would not get a chance at 400.
After being injured much of the 1980 season, he was traded back to the Mets. This was going to be the new Kingman, and his arrival was celebrated by a gala press conference in training camp where he handed out gold-plated pens to beat writers.
The era of good feeling was short-lived. He started sulking when critics pointed to his low batting average and stopped talking again.
The next year he led the league in home runs with 37 but batted only .204, managing just 72-non home run hits in 535 at-bats.
On June 15, 1983, the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez from St. Louis and that essentially ended Kingman's days with the club.
Finally, the Mets released Kingman on Jan. 30, 1984, and two months later he was signed by the A's to a one-year contract.
Now, Kingman says he is happy.
"These past years have been the most enjoyable of my entire career," he says. "Being out West here, closer to home, has made a big difference to me. But I'm not thinking of going on like this forever. I'm not really concerned with my longevity. I'm satisfied with my career, and just happy to be where I am right now.
By KEN PICKING, USA Today
PHOENIX, Ariz -- Dave Kingman, known as much for his moodinessas his mammoth home runs, never has been happier with his career.
he takes his chocolate-colored Labrador to training camp each morning and ties "Brodie" to the Oakland A's clubhouse door. He foes about his work quietly, chats casually with teammates and appears to be having a fabulous time.
At 36, after 13 adventurous seasons and 377 career home runs, Kingman has rediscovered the joy in playing big-league baseball. He bears little resemblance to the surly slugger who played for the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs: the one with the unmistakable chip on his shoulder who rarely talked to anybody.
"I've learned that every year could be your last, so you should get the most out of every minute," said Kingman. "Life is more enjoyable when you think it could be the last time around. I'm having fun, and I appreciate that my career has taken me here."
In perhaps the baseball bargain of recent times, A's general manager Sandy Alderson signed Kingman when nobody else would. The A's paid the minimum $40,000 for a designated hitter who hit 35 home runs and drove in 118 runs because the Mets owed $700,000 after releasing him in 1983.
"It was a pressure year; I had to come through," said Kingman who had played only 18 American League games previously. "Hitting against unfamiliar pitchers in unfamiliar parks made it doubly hard. I knew in my own mind my career was not over. I'm just glad I could prove it."
Not known for his defense, Kingman said the DH and A's saved him from retirement.
"I may have lost some quickness, but I can still hit them as far as ever."
A notorious free-swinger--he has struck out more than 150 times in a season twice--Kingman swung at fewer bad pitches last season and exhibited uncommon control at the plate. He still struck out 119 times, but his average rose to .288.
After a slow start, Kingman erupted April 16 in the Seattle Kingdome with his third career three-home run, eight-RBI game. One home run was the first of three grand slams for the season. In May, he injured his knee and wore a brace the rest of the way. His consistency never suffered.
"From May to July, Kingman was a great hitter in all phases," said A's coach Cloyd Boyer. "The man had bad raps as a person and a player, but he showed none of it with us."
Because of club policy, the A's offered the American League comeback player of the year a one-year, $800,000 contract, and Kingman said that was acceptable. "It makes me have to go out and earn another one," he said.
Since joining the A's, Kingman's relations with the media have been cordial and productive for both.
"Oakland writers are not New York and Chicago writers; those guys have bigger egos than the ballplayers," said Kingman. "In Oakland, they do not have to manufacture a story so thay have their own scoop. I may have learned it a little late, but I know now you can't control what's written."
With leadoff hitter Rickey henderson traded, A's manager jackie Moore will depend on Kingman's contributions even more. "A happy Kingman is a productive Kingman, and that's how I want him to stay," Moore said.
Ex-Cub Dave Kingman had a week of power that King Kong would have been proud to claim as his own.
On Saturday, Kingman went 3-for-5 and batted in four runs as Oakland won 8-6 at Cleveland.
On Wednesday, Kingman blasted a pair of three-run home runs for six RBI as Oakland lost to the White Sox 8-7 in 12 innings.
For his finale on Friday, Kingman had two hits, including his 17th homer of the season, as Oakland ripped the Indians 9-1.
Kingman's best home run production with the Cubs was 1979 when he belted 48. On Feb. 28, 1981, he was traded to the Mets for outfielder Steve Henderson and cash.
This was the second time in three weeks that Kingman was named ex-Chicago player of the week.
By KIT STIER, The Sporting News
August 4, 1985
OAKLAND--Dave Kingman isn't one to dwell on numbers. Thoughts pertaining to arrival as lofty career statistics remain locked inside this very private person.
While Oakland A's teammate Don Sutton freely admits winning 300 games is foremost in his mind, Kingman would rather discuss this year's salmon run than elaborate on drilling his 400th home run.
Although Kingman wouldn't admit it, his quest to hit career homer No. 400 was starting to get on his nerves as single followed single and groundout followed strikeout.
Kingman rarely plays with a great deal of emotion. But on August 1, in a victory over California, Kingman flung his batting helmet is disgust after grounding out, despite driving in his 80th run of the season.
In the same game, Rod Carew of the Angels hit two singles, leaving him just four hits shy of 3,000 in his career.
Kingman, the A's designated hitter, insistes that victories are his No. 1 priority--and that hitting singles isn't what he gets paid handsomely to do.
"I'm tired of getting questions about it, and I'm tired of answering questions about it," Kingman said. "I'll let you take it from there."
Kingman had hit just one homer in his previous 21 games. Career homer No. 399 exited Fenway Park high above the Green Monster on July 24. Kingman hit his 398th homer on July 7 against Toronto at Oakland Coliseum. Since No. 396, he hadn't exactly been mired in a slump, his average always hovering around .250. He'd had 20 hits, including four doubles, a homer and seven runs batted in.
"No, I never really have," Kingman said when asked whether he keeps tabs on his career numbers. "Twenty years from now it might be nice to look back and say I hit 400 homers. But what's important now is that the team wins."
Maybe so, but manager Jackie Moore and hitting coach Billy Williams have noticed a change in Kingman.
"It's getting in an area now where he is trying to swing a little too hard, and he doesn't have to do that," said Williams.
"Sure, it's on your mind," said Williams, who hit 426 career homers. "All the writers are asking about it, calling each day and putting it in your mind. I guarantee when he hits the 400th home run a whole bunch of weight will fall off his shoulders."
Williams said that when a hitter approaches a big goal, as Kingman has, it is only natural to press.
"He wants that home run, and I don't blame him," said Williams. "Records are made to be broken, and you've got to go for it. It's not like trying to hit a single. You can get a single by bunting and lots of different ways, but to hit a home run you've got to juice it. When he hits it, it will probably be on a sacrifice fly (situation), and it will probably be over the centerfield fence."
Moore probably wanted the magic barrier broken just as much as Kingman.
"I think it's something he is thinking about," said Moore. "Maybe he is putting a little pressure on himself, and that's why I'd like to see him get out of this. It puts you in a class with a lot of great ball players. I can't imagine hitting 400, I never hit one, so I can see where it would be important--and it should be."
Perhaps it is understandable that Kingman won't discuss career statistics. He is a private person who has had trouble with the media in the past, especially during his days with the Chicago Cubs and two stints with the New York Mets. He is content now and will talk with writers, but he'd much rather go fishing than catch his limit of headlines.
He does have numbers to be proud of: hitting 30 or more homers in five different seasons, including a career-high 48 with the Cubs in 1979.
But he has one more immediate number in mind.
Press excerpts Copyright 1985 Chicago Sun-Times, The Sporting News, USA Today
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