July 28, 1979; Cubs vs. New York Mets @ Shea Stadium
Cubs slugger Dave Kingman becomes only the sixth player (at that time) in baseball history to hit 3HRs in a game for the second time in one season. The Mets win 6-4.
Kingman, in his second year with the Cubs and 9th season overall, was enjoying what would be the best year of his career. He finished with a league leading 48 HRs, .613 SLG, and .956 OPS. He also led the league in strikeouts with 131. He finished 11th in NL MVP voting – behind even his teammate Bruce Sutter. That about sums up the career of Dave Kingman; he was Adam Dunn before Adam Dunn was born.
The first time Dave Kingman hit 3HRs in a game that year was against the Phillies, in the legendary 23-22 loss at Wrigley. A Cub has accomplished the feat 37 different times, not surprisingly with Sammy Sosa turning in 6 such performances. After Kingman, it would be an 8 year wait to see another Cub hit 3HRs – Andre Dawson, 8/1/1987.
Kingman’s all or nothing approach at the plate earned him a well traveled baseball career. Starting in San Francisco, he would play for 7 different teams (including two stints with the Mets) before finishing his career across the bay in Oakland after 16 seasons. In 1977 he played for 4 different teams. Though he led the league in HRs twice, he also led it in strikeouts on three occasions. And other than his 3 seasons with the Cubs, he had only one more full season in which he hit for an average higher than .238 – he was a lifetime .236 hitter.
500 different times a player has hit at least 3HRs in a game – 19 different players have done it twice in the same season. Kingman is the only one of those 19 players to have his team lose both of his 3HR games in the same season. In fact, of those 39 games (Sosa hit 3HRs, on 3 different occasions in 2001) the player’s team is 30-8-1; the Cubs record is 3-4 (we lost 2 of the 3 games in 2001 when Sosa accomplished the feat, but won both times Aramis Ramirez did it in 2004) – ouch!
Kingman would go on to hit 3HRs in a game one more time in his career, for the 1984 A’s. Though he finished with 442 career HRs, the man they called “Kong” would never sniff the Hall of Fame. He received only 3 votes in his first year of eligibility, removing him from all future ballots; he became the first player with more than 400 HRs to miss out on Cooperstown.