Got a message from longtime reader Dave who asked in so many words, “What was Dave Kingman doing wearing No. 5 during spring training in 1981?”
It’s a good question and one we have addressed before here, but I should mention a few things about that: One, we did it 10 years ago. Did you know this site is nearing its 20th birthday? I still run it, still make the rules, and there’s none against reinvestigations. I actually like taking advantage of the archives (check out the impressive dropdown on the left!) and don’t do it enough. Ask me anything!
Two, what we hashed out was mostly in the comments section, which has been cut and pasted from a couple generations of the web site since and is kind of hard to find or read.
Three, my access to historical data has gotten much better since then as evidenced by what I was able to find looking it over again:
So that’s Dave upon his arrival at St. Petersburg on March 3, 1981, days after the Mets completed a trade bringing Kong back to blue-and-orange for the first time since departing in the Midnight Massacre of 1977. There’s great stuff in there about his handing out monogrammed pens to writers as a signal of his willingness to rehab his image as a reporter-hater. In five years Kingman would be outed for sending a gift-wrapped live rat to Susan Fornoff, who then covered Kingman’s Oakland A’s for the Sacramento Bee. Nothing changes, even when it does, including the uni number!
Anyway, Kingman ironically arrived in a trade for Steve Henderson, who turned out to be the best of all we’d gathered on that bloody 1977 night, if you don’t count Bobby Valentine’s managerial career (Valentine as you know arrived for Kingman along with Paul Siebert; Henderson came in the booty for Tom Seaver). But yep, looks like they initially just did a straight-up Uni Swap, Hendoo for Kong.
The Mets between Kingman’s departure and rearrival had issued 26 to pitchers Mike Bruhert (1978); Ray Burris (1979) and in late 1980, rookie callup Scott Holman. Holman was back training with the Mets when the Kingman deal was done.
Holman was considered something of a hot pitching prospect at the time but was already battling shoulder problems that would plague him for the duration of his career. He was also only 22 and a longshot to make the big club; he’d be reassigned to minor league camp March 25 and spend the entire 1981 season with AA Jackson, freeing up 26 for the Konger before regular-season play began.
Holman eventually made it back to New York in September of 1982, rejoining Kingman and the Mets wearing No. 28, which he also wore through 1983 with the big club. Holman ran out of minor-league options by 1984 but re-signed with AAA Tidewater; that freed up 28, ironically enough, for Bobby Valentine, who had retired but was rejoining the Mets as a third-base coach. Holman signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in 1985 and spent the year in Class AAA Iowa. But here’s another new thing I learned researching this: Some Mets fans spied a job-seeking Holman working out with the 1986 Mets during spring training, saying he’s briefly visible in a highlight VHS tape I have but cannot play, perhaps that’s out there on YouTube somewhere, if you see it and can identify what Holman’s wearing, let me know!
Kingman would be released by the Mets following the 1983 season and was off to his rat-infested tenure in Oakland.
And that… is the rest of the story.