— Days Without Shea —

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I missed this: The NY Daily News had a nice "where are they now" piece on Dave Kingman (Thanks, Rob, for the note!). It's hard to recognize him when he's smiling but that's Kingman, one of my boyhood heroes. Too bad he won't be at the last game at Shea Stadium either...

The man they called Kong and Sky King is laughing over the phone as he drives around his native Lake Tahoe. The subject is his golf game and, Dave Kingman says, there’s no comparison between his skill on the links and the days when he was one of baseball’s most-feared sluggers.

“I’m a horrible golfer,” Kingman says. “Let’s just say it was easier to hit a moving ball than one standing still.”

Kingman, who will turn 60 in December, is enjoying a quiet retirement in Lake Tahoe. He has two kids in college and one in high school and owns a local tennis club. He spends time hunting and fishing and “just being outdoors…I’m a homebody.

“Lake Tahoe is very quiet, far from the big city life. Very relaxing.”

While Kingman won’t make the final game at Shea later this month, he says he still keeps up with the Mets and other teams he played for, particularly the Giants, A’s and Cubs. He watches the A’s and Giants on local television regularly. Kingman was such a powerful slugger in his day that even his popups were events. He hit 442 home runs, 35th all-time and had seven seasons of 30 or more homers. He hit 154 homers for the Mets and four for the Yankees in eight games in 1977, when he played for four teams. He had a .236 career average and struck out 1,816 times, 10th all-time.

“I enjoyed the 17 years I played,” he says. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t on a championship team, but met a lot of friends. I enjoyed the six years on the Mets. I’m very happy and very content.

“I can’t imagine making a living any other way than hitting a baseball. When you take a good cut and pitcher and hitter alike know where it’s going, that’s the joy of being a power hitter.”

Kingman admits he wasn’t “as disciplined as the guys today. I admire these guys. I was a free-swinger.”Kingman wouldn’t discuss the role that performance-enhancing drugs might have played in the success of today’s sluggers. “I’m so distant from that,” he says. “It was not prevalent in my time, so I’d just as soon not talk about it. My last year with the A’s (1986), I played with (Jose) Canseco and (Mark) McGwire and I admired watching them, seeing how far they could hit the ball. McGwire came from my alma mater (USC).

“They were great power hitters. I’ll leave that right there.”





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