It was hard to take this year’s deadline-day selloff. But much like with your initial boyfriend/girlfriend, the first cut is the deepest. Nothing could ever have the same emotional impact as June 15, 1977 – the date the Mets traded stars Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman. The trades were horrific just with the idea of the team’s top stars being sent out of town. But the meager return made it all the more difficult to swallow. Let’s hope it’s not foreshadowing. Regardless, this trade of Kingman set the wheels in motion for a feat never seen before and almost guaranteed to never happen again. Kingman wound up playing for teams in all four divisions in the same season.

When people ask me about my favorite card, it’s an almost impossible question to answer because there are so many of them. But this 1977 Kingman – the only real card, as Topps did not have an update/traded set this year – would make the not-so-short list. No doubt it’s helped by being at the height of my collecting years. I’m pretty sure I’m the only kid on my block that year to have two complete sets. But even aside from that, we have a classic design, with Topps giving the Mets a color close to their real blue, instead of the green (’65), pink (’67), purple (’68 & ’69) and red (’72) like they had done previously. Then there’s a majestic action shot, unlike the ’72 in-action shot for Seaver. Also, let’s not forget the All-Star banner. And to top it all off, Topps made this card #500, with the numbers ending in 00 and 50 reserved for the game’s biggest stars.

The Mets were engaged in a contract dispute with Seaver, with the elitist M. Donald Grant doing everything in his power to make Seaver look like the bad guy, most notably leaking details both real and imagined to various sources in the mainstream media. And then he dealt Seaver. It seemed like Grant asked himself what else he could do to annoy the fanbase. And the answer was to trade Kingman for junk, too. The Mets shipped Kingman to the Padres for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert. Valentine was a one-time top prospect who had his career derailed by injuries, including a gruesome leg injury that had multiple compound fractures above his ankle. Siebert was a non-descript middle reliever who posted an 81 ERA+ in 56 IP with the Mets.

Kingman was having a great year in 1976 before suffering a thumb injury. But his ’77 season was not off to as good of a start. But he turned things around with the Padres, bashing 11 HR in just 168 ABs. And they rewarded Kingman by … releasing him. Rumor has it that they weren’t planning on re-signing him. You’d think he would have had some trade value. Maybe they tried and no one bit. Anyway, Kingman was scooped up by the Angels, who did with Kingman what the Padres were unable to, as they traded him in mid-September to the Yankees, who were involved in a pennant race.

The Yankees moved into first place on August 23 but were involved in a tight race with the Orioles and Red Sox. A big kick, where the Yankees finished 10-5 in their last 15 games, gave them the division title. Kingman played eight games for the other New York teams. He struck out an ungodly 13 times in 27 trips to the plate with the Yankees. But Kingman hit 4 HR and had a 0.42 WPA – an outstanding total in a brief sample. In 187 PA with the Padres, the one where he turned his season around, Kingman had just a 0.14 WPA.

In 1999, Pacific honored Mike Piazza with a card that showed him on the three teams he played for the previous season – the Dodgers, Marlins and Mets. But Topps had a virtual monopoly back in 1977-78 and neither they nor Kellogg’s nor Hostess saw fit to honor Kingman with a card of this type. The card images for the non-Mets teams are fan-created cards, much like our old pal Warren Zvon would make.

I miss Warren.

6 comments on “Mets Cards of the Week: 1977 Dave Kingman

  • Bob P

    You brought back a lot of memories with this article Brian. I remember having a little league game the day after the midnight massacre. As a 9 year old at the time it was really hard to fathom how this could happen, and wondering who the hell were all these scrubs the Mets got instead of two of my favorite players. Those are tough things for a kid to take and comprehend.

    This also reminds me of some other moments of learning how the world and MLB in particular worked, like when I asked my Dad what it meant when the Mets released Cleon Jones and he explained that he basically “got fired”. Other devastating moments for me include trading Rusty for big, fat, old Mickey Lolich and trading Mazzilli for two minor league pitchers, although that worked out well with Darling and Terrell (who eventually brought us Hojo). These things are fun to think about now even though they seemed like the end of the world once.

  • Mike W

    I too despised Lolich. He was big and fat. But looking at his stats years later, he had a 3.22 ERA in 30 starts for the Mets. How much money would he get in today’s market with those stats?

    Thanks for writing about Kingman. Next to Seaver, he was one of my favorite Mets in a bad team. Sure, he struck out a lot, but he hot some massive home runs. I was fortunate when he was on the Mets to get his autograph at an autograph session at a store in a mall in Northern New Jersey. I was star struck. He was a big guy at 6’6″.

    So, when he was traded the same day as Seaver, I heard it on the radio on WINS news and I was enraged. Seaver AND Kingman, for who? We all know about Seaver, but a couple of chumps for my favorite hitter, arrrgh. I still growl about it almost 50 years later.

    So as an aging Mets fan, I fully would understand the Mets trading Alonso and I am all for it, but there are tons of 10 year old kids who will have meltdowns if Alonso is traded.

    On another note, Davey Johnson is a finalist on the veterans committee for the Hall of Fame. One note about Davey, he was one of four hitters on the Braves who hit 40 home runs in one season, the only time it was ever done, the others are Hank Aaron, Darrel Evans and I can’t think of the 4th.

  • Mike W

    Sorry, I was wrong. It was three players who hit 40.

  • Nym6986tt

    What I remember most about Kingman was waiting for the next monster HR. Not just a HR. And yes he struck out often but he could cream that ball. His departure and that of my still all time favorite player were devastating in declaring that we were done being competitive. That’s how I’d phrase it today. Back then there were not stop conversations, you know – what we used to do before the Internet, and the language was pretty hot. The return for Seaver never produced a star but at least there were some serviceable players, and we did much better than the Kingman giveaway.
    The specter of the HR. DelGado hit some big ones, as did Piazza. But the bombs that come off Pete’s bat are worth the price of admission. Sign him and get a good bat behind him.

  • JerseyJack

    Love the 3 alternate Kingman cards & the fantasy baseball card site !! So cool

    • Brian Joura

      Yeah, Warren did great work. He custom made a Dominic Smith card for us in the style of 1971 Topps. Even had a 360 logo in it.

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