My early Mets memories consist almost entirely of Dave Kingman. It's probably a composite memory but I can clearly recall Kingman striding to the plate in the bottom of the 9th at Shea, with the Mets down 2 runs and 2 runners on. My young boy brain knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Dave Kingman was about to hit a 3 run home run and win the game.
I can just as clearly picture Kingman striking out to end the game, leaving those 2 runners stranded.
Dave Kingman played only 6 seasons, in 2 stints, with the Mets. Yet it seems like he was there forever. Or least for the entirety of the late 70's and early 80's, which for Mets fans, was forever. Those years, after the World Series of 1973 until the buildup to 1986, were a black hole in Mets history. Those were also the formative years of my Mets fandom.
Kingman appeared in 664 games for the Mets. He hit 154 home runs and struck out 672 times. Even my young boy brain should have realized in that 9th inning that Kingman was 4 times more likely to strike out than he was to hit a game winning blast. And that sums up what being a Mets fan is all about: Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst. I learned that sitting on the floor in front of our ancient console Magnavox that I had to get up and change the channel on physically. I passed that onto my children watching Tom Glavine give up 7 runs in the first inning on Sunday, Sept 30, 2007. As good as we are now, I know what's coming down the road. But I am ready.
No matter what tragedy befalls the Mets, no matter what disappointments come, I am prepared. Dave Kingman made sure of that. And for that I thank him.
I believe I will wear my Dave Kingman jersey today.