One of the biggest deals in the history of Major League Baseball went down on February 28, 1975.

Like, literally one of the biggest deals.

See, that’s the day the San Francisco Giants sold their rights to the giant wind tunnel of a hitter named Dave Kingman to the New York Mets for $150,000.

Up until that point, Kingman’s ride in pro ball had been choppy, starting with being drafted two times before the third-time-is-a-charm Giants took him with the first pick in the secondary phase of the June 1970 Draft.

From there, it was a short 165-game minor league sprint punctuated by power and strikeouts, culminating in a July 1971 debut with the Giants.

Over the next three-plus seasons, Kingman logged time at first base, third base, left field, right field, and … uh … pitcher.

He was pretty much lousy, maybe even entertaining, with the glove … and scary-wild on the mound — four strikeouts, six walks, two wild pitches, four earned runs in four innings over two appearances for the 1973 Giants.

And at the plate?

Also sort of scary-wild.

From his call-up in 1971 through the end of 1974, Kingman posted the following line: .224, 77 HR, 217 RBI, 138 BB, 422 SO, .304 OBP, .469 SLG, 112 OPS+, 4.3 oWAR.

(Stats per Baseball Reference)

If Kong could have somehow doubled his walks in that timespan, keeping everything else the same, his OBP would have skyrocketed to .400 and his OPS to .869.

Numbers like that today make for a Sabermetrics star, strikeouts be darned.

And, yes, making that jump would have been no mean feat, but you gotta think if Kingman were a young player now, his walk totals would almost certainly be drastically different.

But in 1975, they weren’t.

And so, when presented with the opportunity to reduce the gale forces blowing through drafty Candlestick Park and rake in some cashage in the process, the Giants pulled the trigger.

For their part, the Mets were surely hoping to boost an anemic offense that produced just 96 longballs in 1974, contributing to their fall from World Series runners-up in 1973 to a fifth place finish in the old National League East.

So they “bought” Kingman, gave him a share of first and left, and set up their windmills beyond the Shea Stadium outfield walls.

Kong delivered in 1975 to the tune of .231/36/88, with 153 strikeouts — a sum that did NOT lead the N.L. (thanks to Mike Schmidt’s 180).

It was more of the same in 1976, with .238, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 135 strikeouts.

The Mets finished third each season, crafting winning records both times, but going nowhere fast.

Still, Kingman’s oversized frame (6’6”, 210 pounds) and even bigger presence in the batter’s box made him something of a cult figure among the Flushing Faithful, and he made his first All-Star cut that Bicentennial summer.

The next spring, Topps celebrated all that was Kong and the Mets with this amazing baseball card that has become a hobby classic:

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Heck, Topps was even on the Kong-in-the-Big-Apple-equals-stardom bandwagon, as they slotted him at the coveted #500. Here’s the card back for proof:

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Alas and alack, legend and myth is riddled with the tales of tragic love, fallen heroes, and paradises lost.

And, so it was for this near-perfect swath of hobby lore.

Because, with the Mets out to a 25-35, sixth-place start, general manager Joe McDonald traded Kingman to the Padres on June 15, 1977.

Suddenly, his glorious and still-live baseball card had been rendered obsolete.

Then it got even more obsolete when the Padres placed him on waivers in September, with the Angels claiming him on the 6th.

And obsoleter, still, when California traded Kingman on September 15.

His final 1977 destination?

New York.

With the Yankees.

A year that had started with Kingman immortalized as the conquering, if flawed, hero in baseball’s biggest market, ended with him at home while his new team — his fourth of the season — plowed through October to a World Series title without him.

And in November of 1977?

Kingman signed as a free agent with the Cubs, adding yet another entry to his calendar-year collection of MLB teams … and making his 1977 Topps card feel like a relic before the 1978s ever saw the light of day.

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Kingman’s last appearance in the big leagues came in 1986, and he made the cut in some 1987 baseball card sets. Do you think any of his Donruss career-capper made the list of most valuable cards from that set?

Check out our YouTube rundown to find out!

1977 Topps #523 Rollie Fingers

End Date: Saturday 03/23/2024 09:32:30 EDT
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