The outfielder who says, 'Leave the writing to me'
When Dave Kingman says that most sports writers are inaccurate, he is probably right. But at least they don't make any more mistakes than baseball's best batters, who consider it a great year if they hit safely 3 of every 10 times they go to the plate.
Of course sports writers have a lot more on their minds than ballplayers -- the mortgage, the car payment, Little Lulu's baton lessons, the butcher, and the baby sitter. Our season also runs 365 days of the year, whereas Kingman (anytime after Oct. 1) can run off to Acapulco until it's time to play baseball again.
Even though Dave probably attacks his typewriter like most sports writers, meaning one key at a time, somehow I don't think he is really one of us. He's got too many expensive jackets, bank accounts, town houses, and all-star game rings for that. Besides, the Tribune reportedly pays him $200 a column, which is way over scale for most guys.
On the other hand, Kingman's sense of humor may not be that far removed from most members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, who have been known to carry firecrackers, itching powder, and exploding cigars into the press box.
Earlier in the season Dave did dump a bucket of ice water (gently, of course) on a Chicago beat man who had written about Kingman's being absent from a team meeting.
But i would have to think this is an improvement over one New York writer I knew, who used to cover baseball back in the days when the teams always traveled by train on road trips. This man used to amuse himself by setting fire to the bottom of his colleagues' newspapers as he strolled through the club car.
There was also a writer who once substituted a grapefruit for a baseball that was to be dropped from an airplane to see if a certain major league player could catch it. He caught it all right -- squarely on his chest, and as the grapefruit squirted in all directions, so did this gentleman's vocabulary.
One thing that Kingman may not like about baseball writers is that they sometimes tend to notice his shortcomings in the field. However, it is not true that Dave cannot run. It is true that he does not run as well when he must watch an oncoming fly ball and carry a glove at the same time.
What Kingman excels at is hitting tape- measure home runs, mashing baseballs into pudding, and jerking crowds to their feet. At 6 ft. 6 in. and 215 pounds, he is a big man, and when you start to see him squeeze the bat so that sawdust begins to trail from the handle, the inevitable is about to happen.
"Sometimes I don't think Kingman knows how great he is," said Chicago Manager Preston Gomez the last time the White Sox were at Dodger Stadium. At this point I interrupted Preston to assure him that I felt sure Kingman knows exactly how great he is.
Anyway, Gomez went on to praise his overall ability; to remind me that Dave had caught the defense napping in one game and successfully beaten out a bunt; and that he had already stolen his first base of the season.
Kingman is popular with the fans because of his style -- which generates ohs and ahs even when he strikes out. In fact, when he misses, he takes all the air out of the ballpark.
Last year David was the major league home run champion, with 48, and if he can hit 52 this year he will become only the fifth player in baseball history to total 100 in back-to-back seasons.
The four others are Babe Ruth (the only man to do it more than once), Jimmie Foxx, Ralph Kiner, and Roger Maris. I don't know how Kingman feels about this record, because I haven't talked to him lately. But i hope he makes it, because I don't think he realizes what a shaky business writing can be.
Believe me, it's not the adjective that go first!
Since I have never read any of Dave's columns, I can't really comment on them. But I understand that he once thanked all Cub fans in print "for helping the team pull two cliffhangers out of the fire!"