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Dave Kingman does it all (well, some of it all)

Saturday 8/19/23

The mighty Dave Kingman, a player no one has ever much liked, though they should, because he was awesome--you just have to understand him--not only once stole home plate--which is one more time than speed merchant and nine-time stolen base champ Luis Aparicio--but on September 9, 1982, while playing for the lowly 55-83 New York Mets against the eventual world champion 78-61 St. Louis Cardinals, he hit what proved to be the game-winning home run in the top of the eighth inning. The Mets were terrible, and still there was the indefatigable Kingman to lead them on as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.

But this was no regular Kingman moonshot--and no one hit beautiful moonshots like Kingman--because the man known as Kong elected in this instance for an inside-the-park dinger. I have no idea how this happened, save that he hit it to right field, where Kingman rarely hit the ball, and am choosing to believe he did so on purpose, utilizing the weapon of surprise.

What could this man not do?

Okay, some will say hit for average, field, run the bases particularly well, care about anything other than home runs, but all of that is to fail to understand Kingman's particular form of greatness--his devotion to his true gift--which transcends these silly concerns.

(I have encountered a report from someone who knew Kingman in college who said that Kingman used to walk everywhere on campus with a shot put with which he'd do hand exercises to further bolster his home run hitting abilities. Sometimes he'd throw his shot put into people's rooms.)

I could write a wild, postmodern comic novel about Dave Kingman. It would be like Flann O'Brien's Keats and Chapman, but with Kingman, and not like O'Brien's Keats and Chapman at all. Kingman, with his devotional purity to his metier would appear in various ages and epochs. Kingman alongside Napoleon. Kingman in the jungles of Africa. Kingman on the sweeping expanse of the American prairie. Kingman in King Arthur's court. Kingman in Salem during the witch trials. Kingman with cave dwellers. It would be Kingman but not Kingman. But it would start with Kingman. Who'd then become this spirit incarnate throughout time. But look like Kingman. You'd have to explain who Kingman was for starters, but that's not a problem. Call it Dave Kingman Throughout History. A flawed hero for all times.

Further: Kingman led the National League in home runs that year by one home run. His margin of victory was this inside-the-park job.

So what if he hit .204? That's not the point.

There were times when I thought I couldn't love Dave Kingman more, but then I'd dig a little deeper, and now I just accept that my Kingman love will never have any bounds.


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