Archive for the ‘ Brian Kingman ’ Category

Former pitcher Brian Kingman reviews “Fastball John.”

83f_516_dacquistoReviewed by Brian Kingman

Fastball John is an Amazing Book!

You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that
it was the other way around all the time ~Jim Bouton

Perhaps the best description of life as a professional baseball player from a players perspective since
Ball Four. John D’Acquisto and Dave Jordan have done a wonderful job of bringing the remarkable events of John’s career to life. A career in professional baseball is a journey, and the path to the major leagues is a precarious one. Obstacles abound. Temptations from all seven of the deadly sins surround you. Only a few of those who are chosen will make it as far a the major leagues.

John’s remarkable story is about his transition from the joyful innocence of high school baseball, to the business of professional baseball, and his return to life as a civilian. Professional baseball is more than just a game–it is a cut throat business. For John it was more than just a career, it was a way of life.

John’s stories are captivating, because they are real life experiences. His involvement in a mafia run restaurant, the fight with Bob Gibson on an elevator after beating him on the mound, betrayal by one of his best friends: The “Count” John Montefusco, and his legal problems after baseball are riveting.

John’s story is fascinating. Fastball John is well written and an entertaining read!fast

Brian Kingman talks about his career and his troubles with Billy Martin.

kingman customCCA: On page 209 of Nancy Finley’s new book “Finley Ball,” she writes that manager Billy Martin started dating Jill, who he eventually married. (She also was called “the devil” by his children from another marriage by refusing to give them any memorabilia and selling it all after Martin’s death.) Is it true that she was dating a player who asked you “how do you complain to the manager who is hitting on your girlfriend?” Are you comfortable naming this player?

REVISITING 1980 – BILLY MARTIN’S DOG HOUSE & SOAP OPERA

“Billy first laid eyes on Jill Guiver in 1980 before a game against the California Angels. She had a camera on her shoulder. Though she didn’t work for any organization, she was telling everyone she was a free-lance photographer. At one time she had dated one of the Yankee players, Reggie Jackson. According to ball players who knew her at the time, her photography was her way to get to meet them. The way she looked, an introduction was all she needed. She liked to wear tight-fitting clothes and short shorts. She was very sexy. Jill asked Billy if she could take his picture. Billy asked her if he could take her for a drink after the game. They began dating, which threw a scare into at least four of Billy’s players who were also seeing her. These players feared that she would reveal to Billy that they were also going with her and that Billy would take it out on them. They were praying that Billy’s relationship with Jill Guiver would soon end, that she was only a phase, in part because they feared Billy’s wrath and also because as long as Billy was with her, they couldn’t be.” ~ Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin billyjill1

BK:I don’t know if it was the day Billy met Jill, but it had to be close to it. All the players had noticed an attractive woman with a camera near our dugout during batting practice. Billy spent an abnormally long amount of time in the clubhouse during the game that day. This was extremely rare. Billy was always watching the game from the dugout. I wasn’t pitching on this day and happened to be in the clubhouse when I saw Billy emerge from the manager’s office with Jill. Most of the players had noticed Billy’s unusually long absence from the dugout,and a few knew that Billy was interested in the “girl with the camera”. I don’t think any of them knew he was alone with her in the manager’s office during the game.

Well I don’t know about four players on our team dating her, but I had heard of one that was. During the game I mentioned to him that I had seen Jill in Billy’s office. His response was “How do you complain to the manager who is hitting on your girlfriend?” Maybe he was just wondering what those other guys mentioned in Wild High & Tight were going to do about it?

CCA: There was also an instance mentioned in the same book where Martin tells you to walk a guy and the guy reaches out and slaps a single on pitch that was meant to be ball and Martin apparently charged out of the dugout screaming, “you motherfucker…I told you to walk him!”

BK:There were actually two games where Billy really surprised me with the way he handled things. The first one is the one you asked about, where Billy came out of the dugout yelling at me. It was against the Cleveland Indians. The second game was about two months later against the Toronto Blue Jays. Both are described below:

THIS IS THE HORSESHIT MOTHERFUCKER GAME AGAINST THE INDIANS (MAY 7, 1980)

On May 7, 1980 I pitched a game against the Cleveland Indians in Oakland. It was a day game and there were maybe 5,000 fans in attendance. I didn’t give up a hit until the 5th inning, but in the 6th I gave up two hits and when Mike Hargrove came to the plate, Billy Martin came to the mound.Billy told me to throw Hargrove four straight pitches high and away. “Maybe we can get him to pop up”. The first two pitches were shoulder-high and a foot outside. The next pitch was a little higher, but maybe only 9 or 10 inches off the plate. Hargrove managed get a hit and Billy came out of the dugout screaming obscenities (“You horse shit motherfucker”) at me. With such a small crowd his voice carried, and could be heard throughout the stadium.

My catcher Jim Essian couldn’t believe that we didn’t just walk Hargrove. Which is the same thing Hargrove told our first baseman.

I didn’t pitch again for two weeks!horseshit card

It turns out Hargrove knew that Billy had told me to throw him high fastballs up and away. He said he had seen it before several times when Billy was his manager in Texas.

THE STUPID PITCHER GAME: JULY 21,1980

In the game above, against the Indians, Billy had called me a horseshit motherfucker. In this game, about two months later, I apparently had progressed enough to just being called stupid, which some may see as an upgrade from horseshit motherfucker.

Toronto Blue Jays 1 Oakland Athletics 0

Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Brian Kingman, L (5-10) 9 9 1 1 2 8 1 3.41

Billy was a great manager. He knew the game, and all of its nuances, inside out. If he had a weakness as a manager it was in how he treated players. He was especially hard on pitchers, especially LOSING pitchers. The last straw for me was in a game he insisted I throw a fastball to a hitter (Alvis Woods) who hit a home run. I threw a complete game and lost 1-0. When the reporters came up to me after the game, they told me that Billy said I was a stupid pitcher because I threw a fastball hitter a fastball behind in the count. My reply to the reporters was: ‘How stupid can I be if Billy is the one who called the pitch? The next day the headline in the sports section was:

KINGMAN RIPS MARTIN

Well, that might not have been the best thing for my career. The old proverb “The truth shall set you free, suddenly turned into “It may be the truth, but the truth shall make Billy mad” I had no idea that would be the headline! I realize that reporters have to make a living, and headlines sell papers, but after this happened, I knew Billy hated me. He was a very small man in that way – holding grudges, always looking for revenge for things real and imagined.

CCA:Nancy also talks a bit about how you were going to get married but Billy Martin was dead set against it. You lost 9 in a row after the marriage. What was going on there?
Was it a psychological issue? Rebellion?

BK:The short answer is that It wasn’t a rebellion. It was just the cumulative effect of a very toxic situation. The combination of poor run support combined with a manager who unless you were winning, was one of the hardest managers to pitch for. Instead of looking forward to my next start, I began to dread it. For the long answer read on:

The games above preceded my 9 game losing streak. Before the losing streak my record was 7-11 and my ERA was 3.41. I easily could have been 11-7, except for the fact that I was getting less than 3 runs a game in offensive support.

The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in my 20 losses are deceptive because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game.
If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, I got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in my other 19 losses. If I had been 11-7 with a 3.41 ERA I believe I Billy would have found someone else to pick on. Everyone is happy when they are winning. Losing was like a small piece of death for Billy,and I was losing at an alarming rate.

In order to get married I was going to have to miss a game. I told Art Fowler about my plans and he said “You’d better ask Billy, he usually doesn’t like guys getting married during the season because it’s a distraction” I told Art that I would ask Billy, but I was thinking there could be no bigger distraction for me than Billy. My first goal when I stepped on the mound was to win the game. My second goal, unfortunately had become to avoid incurring Billy’s wrath.

Billy “granted” me permission to miss a game and get married. When I returned I threw 3 straight complete games, but lost all three by the scores of 3 -2, 4 -3 & 4 -2. I pitched well in those games. I think my era was around 3.5, yet my record now stood at 7-14. The main reason I was losing once again was a lack of offensive support. One of the most devastating factors to a pitchers won-loss record is a lack of offensive support. It the difference between winning 5-4 instead of losing 3-2.

“As for Kingman’s run support, it was literally historically bad. I’ve gone through the game logs at retrosheet & figured out the run support (adjusted for park & league)for 1096 different seasons in which a pitcher started at least 25 games. Kingman’s 1980 is the 13th worst of that bunch. His run support was only 68% of league average when adjusted for park & league.”

future starsI read this about 10-12 years ago on line. It was written by a blogger called Dag Nabbit. It was from one of those baseball Sabermetric sites that are often a challenge to read, but he did a good job of translating my misery and explaining it numerically. I have always want to thank Dag Nabbit, so maybe he will read this. I am positive that very, very few fans, or even players pay attention to a pitcher’s long term lack of offensive support, and even fewer appreciate how utterly devastating it can be.

In the remaining six games of my losing streak, I pitched less effectively than I had up to that point in the season. There is no doubt that the psychological burden of losing was becoming more and more of a factor. Constant, long term losing erodes confidence, which is crucial to success in all sports.The lethal combination of poor offensive support and playing for a manager who hated to lose perhaps more than any manager in baseball history took it’s toll on me. There was an increasingly pervasive sense of futility that you think you can overcome by being mentally tough, and to a certain degree you can. However it is still a burden, an additional obstacle, for which the only remedy is to win. It felt like I was the only one losing, since all the other starters were winning. After losing nine consecutive games my record stood at 7-20.

“Brian Kingman was a pitcher who was very frustrating to Billy because Billy could see he was probably the most talented of the five of us as far as stuff went. Brian was a very intellectual guy. If Brian and Billy had a problem, it was because Brian would not talk to Billy about things that bothered him or about personal things” ~Matt Keough Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin

If you look at the history of 20 game losers you’ll see that virtually all of them were on teams that lost at least 90 games, and quite often 100 games or more. On those teams with 20 game losers almost all the starters have losing records.They say misery loves company, well I was all alone in 1980. In fact the last time a pitcher lost 20 games on a winning team was in 1922. His name
was Dolf Luque. Ironically I was a winning pitcher in 1979 (8-7) with a team that lost 108 games.

Brian Kingman does some time travel.

bk

loves girls with cars….well, at least in 1975.

BK,

I just noticed you were born on July 27th. I was born on July 26th, 1975….you were a young buck just starting out in Boise at that time…
A 19 year old punk just a day shy of his 20th birthday…out on the road, away from his parents and living his baseball dream. Do you remember what you did that day? So fucking long ago…. 
July 26, 1975….let’s see if I can successfully do some time traveling back almost 40 years to the Northwest League. Normally this would next to impossible, however
through the magic of the Internet I was able to find a newspaper clipping that helped to spark my memory.
On Thursday July 24th I was within two outs of a no-hitter in Boise Idaho, but ended up with  a one hitter in a 7 inning game against the Portland Mavericks. Jim Bouton played for the Mavericks that year but he wasn’t with the team at the time we played them. If he had been I would have run through a brick wall to meet him! (editors note: Kurt Russell’s father owned the Portland team and the actor actually played for the unaffiliated team in 1973…a few years before Brian was in the league.)
I believe we played the Mavericks again on Friday, July25th. Only in the minor leagues would you leave around midnight, take a long bus ride and play the next day, but that’s what we did. We were off to Bellingham, Washington to play the Dodgers. So on Saturday July 26th, 1975 – Your Birthday- I would have been in Bellingham, between starts, and trying to figure out what the hell to do for entertainment after the game in a small town (population probably around 40,000 back then). The usual strategy for minor leaguers who constantly find themselves on the road and without a car, is to meet girls who have cars, and other coveted assets that can be shared and enjoyed. For more on this topic refer to Life in The Minors or perhaps even Ball Four.
Dave Stewart was on the Bellingham Dodgers. I remember him being mostly a relief pitcher at the time. I remember there was a team in Seattle as well, that played in the same ballpark (Sick Stadium) as the Seattle Pilots had several years earlier. Most baseball fans have never even heard of the Pilots because they only lasted one season, 1969. The only reason I remember
this is because Jim Bouton included his season with the Pilots in his epic book Ball Four.

1

“Stew” looking mean.

Bouton resurfaced in the majors as a knuckleball relief pitcher in 1969 with the Seattle Pilots and later the Houston Astros. This period is well documented in Ball Four. Although Bouton was moderately successful as a knuckleball relief pitcher, after the backlash against Ball Four, Bouton disappeared from the majors. Although gone from the major leagues, Bouton continued to pitch for professional and semi-pro teams. He eventually made it back to the majors with the Atlanta Braves for five games in 1978 at the age of 39
After making it back to the major leagues he wrote this in a Sports Illustrated article: “Actually, I thought I’d play about five more years, Hoyt Wilhelm pitched until he was 48, but by the time I got called up, I knew I wouldn’t even stay around that long.” (Bouton was 39 at the time)

Brian Kingman talks about life after death.

Brian Kingman Oakland Athletics

Brian Kingman, your author.

 I recently e-mailed ex-Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman– informing him that the first player on the 1981 team that he had played for had passed. Kelvin Moore, who had played parts of 3 seasons in the majors had died on November 9th, 2014 from cardiac arrest. He was 57. 

Brian, being insightful and clever as always sent me back this interesting e-mail that ponders life after death and the infinite intricacies that perhaps may await us.  I hope C.C.A. readers enjoy this special, one of a kind look into a former ballplayers deepest, most personal thoughts: 

I am so very sorry to hear about Kelvin.
He was a great teammate – easy-going nice guy and powerful hitter.
What do you think happens when you die? 
 
 
The short answer of course is that no one knows. For all we know dying might be an awesome experience. Unfortunately no one has managed to report back from the dead to let us know. It remains a mystery. In fact you could say our entire existence is full of uncertainty. Man still debates the origins of our beginnings, questions the meaning of life, and has no knowledge of what happens after death.
 
 The Souls Search For Salvation aka Coping Mechanism
 
The fact that life is full of mysteries and unexplainable events, such as death, has been a source of angst since the beginning of time. What is a coping mechanism? It is a term used by psychologists

kelvin

R.I.P. Mr. Moore

to describe an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice, and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort. It has also been used by 20 game losers to make themselves believe that other people actually understand how they lost 20 games (trying to remember this is a baseball blog!)

 
The emergence of religion (some might say the invention of religion) gave Man an explanation for suffering, evil and the unknown in the world. It also gave man the hope for life after death. The essence of all religions are basically the same: A life does not begin at birth or end at death. Some religions believe in a Heaven or Hell, while others believe in reincarnation. Religion grew to become a huge part of an individuals life from birth to death, and helped to diminish the despair of meaninglessness.
 
With the advent of science many religious beliefs became mythology, and belief in God, which was the basis for meaning and value went into decline  his led to Nietzche’s famous quote: “God is dead”.  Cause of death? Indifference caused by a cultural shift away from faith, and towards science and rationalism. Beginning around the time of the Renaissance there was a major change in Man’s psychological evolution. By losing religion, modern man lost his connection with the afterlife.
“Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”
    ~Jean Paul Sartre
 
But is it an illusion?
 
 Those who have had a near death experience have reported various things from feelings of warmth, serenity and detachment from the body, to the presence of a light at the end of a tunnel. Sounds very similar to what a baby goes through at birth. It leaves the only home it has known, and travels through a narrow tunnel towards a light. Perhaps after all, death is just a part of the cycle of life. I find life more satisfying living with the belief that we are eternal beings. It is so much more satisfying than what Shakespeare described in the early 1600’s when
he wrote these famous lines for his play Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5):
 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
 
 
Now that you have read the long answer, you learn it really is the same as the short answer. No one knows what happens when you die.
 
You have to die to find out!
 
Two buddies Bob and Earl were two of the biggest baseball fans in America. Their entire adult lives, Bob and Earl discussed baseball history in the winter, and they pored over every box score during the season.They went to 60 games a year. They even agreed that whoever died first would try to come back and tell the other if there was baseball in heaven.
 
One summer night, Bob passed away in his sleep after watching the Yankee victory earlier in the evening. He died happy. A few nights later, his buddy Earl awoke to the sound of Bob’s voice from beyond. “Bob is that you?” Earl asked. “Of course it me,” Bob replied.
“This is unbelievable!” Earl exclaimed. “So tell me, is there baseball in heaven?”
 
“Well I have some good news and some bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first?”  Earl excitedly replies, “Tell me the good news first.”
 
“Well, the good news is that yes there is baseball in heaven, Earl.”
 
“Oh, that is wonderful! So what could possibly be the bad news?”
 
“You’re pitching tomorrow night.”
 
 
 
 

Brian Kingman interview…part4

4) You told our readers the story about you and Billy Martin getting into a scuffle outside of a club. Do you have any other particularly funny stories involving you and Billy or any other teammates on those Athletics teams?

I won my last start of the 1980 season in Chicago 5-1. I always liked pitching in Chicago. I liked the restaurants, the bars, the nightlife, and after winning what I thought was my last game of the season I took advantage of all Chicago had to offer. Our last two games of the season were in

Milwaukee. I planned to catch up on my sleep and watch Mike Norris (22 wins) and Rick Langford (19 wins) close out the season.

Rick Langford started the very last game of the year in pursuit of his 20th win. It was a cold October day in Milwaukee. Rick was having an amazing
year. He had completed 28 of his 32 starts including 22 consecutive compete games prior to this last game of the year. Going for his 20th win you
knew there was no way he would be coming out of this game. Most of the guys, especially those who knew they wouldn’t be playing had been out 
until the bars closed, since it was our last night of the year on the road. This included most of our relief pitchers, and all of the starters except for Langford. langford
After a couple consecutive nights of heavy drinking I wasn’t feeling too good. As the game wore on the temperature dropped and wind blew harder. I remembered from the year before that there was a ladder that you could climb and get to a catwalk inside the giant scoreboard in right field near our bullpen. I knew I would be the last person called into the game having just pitched a couple of days earlier. Not only had Langford completed 90% of his games, we had a bullpen full of able bodied relief pitchers. Well, perhaps I should say able bodied, but hung over relief pitchers. 
Somewhere around the 4th or 5th inning I started to feel worse, and decided I needed to lie down. I climbed up the ladder and into the giant scoreboard.
I rested on the narrow cat walk shielded from the wind, and warmed by all of the electrical stuff inside the scoreboard. The guys in the bullpen would occasionally let me know what was happening in the game. I dozed off a couple of times only to be awakened by the sound of a baseball rattling
county stadium

County Stadium (R.I.P.) scoreboard. What’s that smell??

around the catwalk that someone from the bullpen had thrown to playfully harass me.

After puking somewhere deep in the bowels of the scoreboard I felt a little better. It was now he 8th inning and the bullpen kept teasing me that Billy
wanted me to warm up. The game was tied 4-4, Langford had men on base, but I knew they were kidding me. Langford would not be coming
out of this game unless it became a lost cause, and I would be the last person to be used in relief! 
Langford pitched the 9th and the 10th inning. After finishing the 10th inning Jeff Jones who was my roommate on the road and is now the pitching
coach for the Detroit Tigers got my attention and said that I needed to get ready to pitch the 11th inning. He said Art (Art Fowler our pitching coach)
had called down to the bullpen and said get Kingman up. It was no joke.
The first batter I faced was Ben Ogilvie,he got a base hit. The next batter grounded out. This was followed by an intentional walk, and then an
unintentional walk. There I was in a game I had no business being in, on the road with one out and the bases loaded facing loss number 21!
Fortunately the next batter hit the ball back to me and we turned a double play to mercifully end the inning. Dave Beard came into the game to pitch
the 12th inning. The team didn’t score much when I pitched, and they didn’t score any for Beard who threw 3 scoreless innings and then took the loss
in the 15th inning.
Rick Bosetti was a flashy fielder who, with Toronto in 1979, led AL outfielders in putouts, assists, and errors. Recognizing his own modest talents as a player, Bosetti had other goals – notably to urinate in the outfield of every major league park, a goal he was able to achieve! bosetti
Hard to believe who ever wrote this thought Rick had no other goals. He was a decent ballplayer. Rick went on to become the Mayor of Redding CA. not too long ago. I had no idea about his goal to urinate in every MLB park until he told me in 1981. I am sure if Billy would have been pissed off he had caught Rick in the act!
Bruce Robinson  was my catcher in Chattanooga. He also caught for the A’s and Yankees.
We had a day off in Montgomery and decided to check out the state capitol. Bruce struck up a
conversation with Wendy  as we were wandering around the rotunda. She turned out to be George Wallace’s receptionist, and her family had known the Wallace family for years.
When Wendy learned that we were in town to play baseball she mentioned that Governor Wallace had played baseball at the University of Alabama. I told Wendy that my father had played baseball with the Governor at Alabama.governor
With that, Wendy said that she was sure he would want to meet us. We were ushered in to his office ahead of several people who had appointments to meet with him, one of them was Harvey Glance who had won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics.
George was happy to see us and remembered playing with my father who he said was a fine shortstop. This was very interesting since I don’t think my father has thrown a baseball in his life and may have never even set foot in Alabama!
mike edwardsI remember a game in Toronto when Billy Martin put Mike Edwards in to pinch run at third base, late in the game with the score tied. With his speed he would be able to tag up and score on a fly ball. Instead he got caught off third on a ground ball to the infield. He was so mortified that he exited the field through
the Blue Jays dugout in order to avoid the inevitable confrontation with Billy in our dugout!

Brian Kingman interview…part 3

kingman

This is part 3 of my Brian Kingman interview…

3) You were best known for being a 20 game loser before Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth “achieved ” this honor in 2003. Have you spoken to Mr. Maroth about this dubious achievement?

No, I never have spoken to Mike. I didn’t want to distract him during the 2003 season. I think I can safely assume he wasn’t very interested in talking to me
about losing 20 games after the fact. The Tigers were having a horrible year and didn’t appreciate the added media attention regarding the possibility that Maroth
might lose 20 games.

When I lost 20 games in 1980 it wasn’t as uncommon of an occurrence as it was in 2003.  There has been a 20 game loser almost every year in baseball history, and some years there were multiple 20 game losers. A  list of 20 game losers was established by baseball reference.com because of the media created interest started and fueled mainly by Jayson Stark. In 1991 Stark wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that mentioned a couple of
pitchers that might lose 20. He noted that no one had lost 20 in over a decade and that “somewhere Brian Kingman was praying for someone to lose 20 games
so he could be relieved of the dubious distinction of being the last 20 game loser”. A friend of mind who lived in Philadelphia mailed me the article. I called the Inquirer and
they gave me Stark’s home phone number. I called him and told him that I wanted to remain the last 20 game loser, basically forever. He of course didn’t believe it was me calling at first. He thought he was being pranked by one of his friends. This was the start of what I call my “Reign as the Last 20 Game Loser” which lasted until 2003. This however is a story in itself and deviates from your question.

When Mike Maroth lost 21 games in 2003 it had been 23 years since I had lost 20.  Baseball, and especially pitching, had undergone a lot of changes. Complete games were on the decline, and the importance of the relief pitcher increased. Pitch counts gained in popularity as front offices worried about injuries to starting pitchers who had been rewarded lucrative contracts. Because of these factors starting pitchers didn’t pitch as deep into games, and had fewer decisions.
Just as it became harder to win 20 games it became less likely that someone would lose 20. It took a historically bad team (2003 Detroit Tigers) losing 119 games for Maroth to “achieve” 20 losses. When a team has that many losses they are very likely going to produce a 20 game loser. The 1962 NY Mets finished lost 120 games and produced two 20 game losers as well as a 19 game loser.
In this sense becoming a 20 game loser was most likely less stressful for Mike in 2003 than it was for me in 1980. No one on the Tigers was winning while on the 1980Mike Maroth
Oakland A’s everyone was winning except me. I am sure the casual fan believed I was a horrible pitcher.  It is assumed that over the course of a baseball season
everything evens out. If you get shut out once in awhile you’ll likely be the be beneficiary of an offensive outburst every now and then as well. I learned first hand that
this isn’t always true;
A section of a blog by Aaron Gleeman:
 

Perhaps more amazing than the fact that no one has been able to do what he did in 1980 in 22 years is how Brian Kingman lost 20 games that year. First of all, he actually pitched for a good team. The 1980 Oakland A’s went 83-79 (.512) and finished second in the American League West. The AL East was much stronger that season, but A’s had the 7th-best record in the 14-team American League. 

Secondly, Brian Kingman was actually a decent pitcher in 1980. He pitched 211 1/3 innings and had a 3.83 ERA. . 

So, he pitched for a good team and was right around league-average in preventing runs, yet he went 8-20. 

Meanwhile in 1980…
Dan Spillner pitched 194 1/3 innings for a Cleveland ballclub that went 79-83. He had a 5.28 ERA – 29.4% worse than league-average – and he went 16-11.

Well as you can see here I have drifted off in my answer to the original question! 
Jack Morris pitched 250 innings for the Tigers who went 84-78. He had a 4.18 ERA – 1.5% worse than league-average – and he went 16-15.
Len Barker pitched 246 1/3 innings for that same Indians team that Spillner was on. He had a 4.17 ERA – 2.2% worse than league-average – and he won 19 games.
Dennis Leonard pitched 280 1/3 innings for the Royals

who were American League Champions (97-65). Leonard had an ERA of 3.79 verysimilar to Kingman’s (3.83) and was a TWENTY game winner (20-11). 

Oakland’s runs per game when Kingman pitched:

             R/G

Wins        4.12

Losses      2.50

No-Dec.     2.75
That’s the difference run-support can make. For the season overall, the A’s scored 4.43 runs per game. So, even in the games Kingman won, he got below-average run support from his teammates.In the games Kingman pitched in, the A’s scored 2.87 runs per game. In the other 130 games they played in 1980, they scored 4.55 runs per game. That’s just plain, old, simple bad luck.

Of the 20 games Kingman lost, 5 of them were games in which the A’s got shutout.

The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in Kingman’s 20 losses are even a little inflated because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game. If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, Kingman got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in his other 19 losses.

*************************************************************************************
Well as you can see here I have drifted off once again from the interview question! The answer sort of morphed into things I would have mentioned to
Maroth if I had talked to him. That’s why editors get paid the big bucks.
When I lost 20 most fans didn’t realize the number of really good pitchers that had lost twenty games. The average fan assumed that only bad
pitchers lost 20. They forget Steve Carlton lost twenty games the year after winning 27 games, and that there are several 20 game losers in the Hall
of Fame, including Pud Galvin who lost 20 games ten years in a row.
The biggest factor in a pitcher losing 20 games is almost always poor sun support. Pitchers ERA’s are always posted on line or in the sport section
along with their won-lost record. There should also be a number that indicates the average number of runs scored for the pitcher. I think it would
be enlightening for fans and players to see run support adjusted W-L totals. Some big winners would look less impressive, and some pitchers with unimpressive records would gain respect. It is so much easier to pitch when your team scores for you.

Brian Kingman interview…part 2

kingman062111

Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.

2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?

I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…

SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!

The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.

Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
The exceptions:

1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642

2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Record: 98-64
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582

3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Record: 78-76
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614

So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.

That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.

So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.

 Part 2>  What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover?
It is probably more interesting the effect the SI cover had on me for years after the day it was taken……………
 
The photo was taken in the visitors locker room at Anaheim Stadium. All of us were proud to be on the cover. Perhaps I was a little less proud than the others.
They were all winners, and I was a 20 game loser. 1980 was a nightmare year for me. In fact that was the hardest part of my 20 loss season was that I was losing
while everyone else was winning. Virtually every 20 game loser pitches for a bad team where losing becomes expected . Typically these are 90-100+ loss teams.
In 1980 we were a  winning team (83-79). The last time a pitcher lost 20 game was in 1922 when Dolf Luque was 13-23 for the Cincinnati Reds. dolf
  Misery Loves Company
The last pitcher before me to lose 20 games for a winning team  might have had some good advice for me. Trouble is he died in 1957.
 
They say misery loves company, but I had to suffer in solitude. While the other guys enjoyed the thrill of victory I had to endure the agony of defeat. Sports Illustrated
gave each of us a framed blow up of the cover but, I couldn’t look at it for at least ten years. Not only did it remind me of the 1980 season, but when my career was
over looking at the cover made me dwell on how different things may have turned out if I had won 14-15 games instead of losing 20.
Just as dramatic as the 1979 A’s turnaround from last place in 1979 to second place in 1980, was my turnaround from 8-7 In 1979 to 8-20 in 1980:

Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?

Answer: Brian Kingman, 1979
Brian Kingman was 8-7 for the 1979 Oakland A’s who were 54-108. Before that Tom Seaver was 16-13 for the 1967 NY Mets who were 61-101. Kingman ironically went on to become a 20 game LOSER the very next season going 8-20 for the A’s. Not only did he remain the last 20 game loser for 23 years until Mike Maroth lost 21 for the Tigers in 2003 he did it for a winning team, the A’s were 83-79. The last time that happened was in 1922 when Dolf Luque lost 20 for the Cincinnati Reds.

Brian Kingman interview part 1…the minor leagues

Brian, just a young buck in the “bushes”.

This is the first part of what will eventually be a 4 or 5 part series interview with former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman. I know this is the part where I usually talk incessantly about nothing, but I’ll let the man speak for himself. I will, however, add that Brian was gracious enough to give me some in -depth answers that read like a book. This is good stuff readers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 1) Well, I suppose we should start at the very beginning. I have a sort of strange obsession with the life of a minor leaguer. The trials, tribulations and bus rides in the “bushes” always stoked my imagination. Do you have any stories or thoughts about any of your stops in the minors?
 
LIFE IN THE MINORS
                                                “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it”
                                                                                        ~Henry Thoreau
Baseball has always been a game of numbers, and some of the biggest numbers are the odds against making it to the big leagues. Less than
one percent of high school players and about five percent of college players are drafted. Less than ten percent of minor leaguers will play even
one day in the major leagues and somewhere between 1-2 percent will actually have a career in the big leagues. I think my first day of spring
training the Director of Minor League Operations said something similar to this in a speech to all of the Oakland A’s minor league players.
I am sure virtually all of us were confident that we were among the 1-2 percent. If we weren’t, we probably wouldn’t have made it this far. 
Knowing that you will make it to the major leagues makes it easier to endure the grind, which is the grueling schedule of 140 or so games,10 hour
bus rides, cheap hotels, doing your own laundry, missing your girl friend, and crappy food. This was just another obstacle to be over come on the path to the big leagues. You were no longer just playing baseball, you were being paid to play baseball. So what if you made less than $10,000 a year, you
were living the dream. Actually as I always liked to point out, we were chasing the dream. Living the dream would be life in the major leagues.
The fact that professional baseball was different from the baseball you had played up to this point in your life was quickly apparent. There were far more
players in spring training than there were rosters spots in the minor league system. Almost every day a few players would get to their locker in the morning ready to start their day, only to notice that their locker was empty. The only thing in their locker would be a pink slip informing them to see their manager. The pink slip mean that they were released. In the real world it would be referred to as being fired or terminated. For all but a few who might
catch on with a different organization it mean that their days of playing baseball were over. Most of these guys had been playing baseball since Little
League, and had been stars in high school or college.
As the season drew closer and the certainty over roster spots became more clear, it was common for the pranksters to remove the contents of one of
the remaining players locker and place a forged note in their locker instructing them to see the manager. The locker room would be full of somber faces
and condolences regarding the bad news. More than a few guys fell for it hook, line and sinker, some of them near tears as they walked into the managers office only to learn it was all just a joke.
I remember reading in a book (Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell) that one of the elements involved in the development of excellence at performing complex tasks is to have spent at least 10,000 hours of practicing it. In order to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class musician, chess player, baseball player – anything, you basically have to spend at least 10,000 hours working at it. That’s one of the reasons why to excel at something
you need to really like what you are doing, or the odds are you won’t put in the hours. For most of the guys who were cut in spring training, they had
put in 10,000 hours working at something they loved, there just happened to be an excess supply of baseball players competing for a limited number
of spots. The ten thousand hour rule might get you a spot in the minors, but to continue along the path to the big leagues it is just a prerequisite.

My first full season in the minor leagues was spent in the Southern League. The Athletics double A team was the Chattanooga Lookouts. 

Kingman in Chattanooga

Kingman in Chattanooga

When

we landed at the airport in Chattanooga there was a crowd waiting to greet us, and a parade that took us to our home park, Engel Stadium. It had been eleven years since professional baseball had been played in Chattanooga, and the city was elated to have a team once again. 
Engel Stadium had quite a history. Satchel Paige made his professional debut at Andrews Field, future site of Engel Stadium, in 1926, playing for the Chattanooga White Sox, a negro league team. Twenty one years latter,16-year oldWillie Mays made his professional baseball debut as a center fielder for the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in the Negro Southern League at Engel Stadium. Harmon Killebrew also played there. He is the only player ever to hit a ball over the centerfield wall which was 471 feet from home plate!killebrew
It is 325 feet down the line to left and probably 340 feet or so to the scoreboard, which was over 30 feet tall.  I spent the first half of the season trying to fungo balls over the scoreboard before I finally succeeded. No one had hit a ball over the scoreboard in a game, although Dale Murphy almost hit a ball through it one night. The combination of throwing a lot of innings and swinging a bat has hard as I could a countless number of times eventually took its toll on my elbow.
Engel Stadium is no longer used for minor league games, it was however used in the filming of 42, the Jackie Robinson story.
The bus rides in the Southern League were long. Sometimes we would leave after a night game at midnight, endure a 10 hour bus ride which arrived at 10 am in the next city, with a game a7pm that night. I’d say the average bus ride was6-7 hoursbut there were several 10 and 11 hour rides in the mix. Players in the minor leagues spend a lot of time together. In addition to sharing an apartment, you had a roommate on the road, all that time on
the bus, and of course at the ballpark. We also shared a common goal which was to make it to the big leagues.
Professional baseball is a way of life. During the season you eat, sleep and drink baseball. It is like a parallel universe to the real world. Players become
totally absorbed in mastering the skills they need to be successful.  Almost everyone in the minor leagues was able to dominate the competition in
amateur baseball. Now for the first time many minor league players have to learn how to transcend failure, something they may have never experienced
before. For someone who was never hit below .400 in their life it can be quite humbling when your struggling to hit .250. In order to play in the major
leagues you not only need the physical skills, you need to be mentally tough.
Days off were few and far between but that didn’t stop us from having fun. While it is true that there were very few off days, there was still plenty of time for mischief. Games typically ended at 10pm, bars closed at 1 and you could sleep till noon if you wanted to most of the time. Some organizations,
like the Dodgers were known for their discipline, dress code and curfews. The A’s organization was at the other end of the spectrum. This remained true even when I reached the major leagues. Billy Martin encouraged his players to drink, in fact if you weren’t a drinker he thought there was something wrong with you. In Billy’s view there was no better way to celebrate the thrill of victory, or to drown the agony of defeat than by closing down the bar.
Playing baseball in many ways allows you – for better or more likely worse! – to have an extended adolescence. Teams tend to get more out of control on a road trip. After a game ends players need to unwind. Food, alcohol and women
Beer-Womenalways seem to go a long way to alleviating, hunger, boredom,
loneliness, horniness and even depression. The good news was the necessities always seemed to be readily available. If left completely unsupervised
I am sure our hotel would have turned into something resembling a party from the movie Animal House.

                                  “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player

                                        It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in”
                                                                                                     ~ Casey Stengel
Fortunately for baseball, and minor league teams every where, the minor league manager always seems to be around to keep things from getting
too far out of control. Minor league managers have to be able to manage more than just the game. They also teach how the game should be played
and are instrumental in passing on the oral traditions of the game: 

The 1976 was a fun season with a lot of great memories. Matt Keough was still an infielder, and played third base. Steve McCatty was our closer, and Dwayne Murphy was the centerfielder. Bruce Robinson was my catcher and closest friend on the team. Bruce caught for the A’s in September of 1978, and was traded to the Yankees in 1979. Bruce_Robinson
As great as 1976 was, there also was some bad news for me. During the last month of the season I had severe elbow pain which prevented me
from being called up to the major leagues during the month of September when they expand the roster. It also threatened to end my goal of making
it to the major leagues. I spent 1977 with the Athletics triple A team in San Jose. I was no longer able to throw in the mid 90’s, and there was no bite
to my slider. I spent a lot of time in doctors offices, getting cortisone shots and on the disabled list.
I had elbow surgery after the 1977 season, and couldn’t even throw a ball until spring training of 1978. I rehabbed with the triple A team in Vancouver and
was sent to Modesto (A ball) when I was ready to pitch. It was psychologically hard to find myself in A ball two years after being close to making the big
leagues. Watching my teammates from Chattanooga move on to triple A and the big leagues was hard as well. I felt like I was going backwards. Instead of developing as a pitcher I was learning how to pitch all over again. My goal of making it to the major leagues seemed to be slipping away, and even though my surgery was successful, I was a different, less dominating pitcher now. Just a little less velocity, and a curveball instead of a slider, I still
had “good stuff” but the my path to the big leagues was definitely going to be harder now.
Pitching is never easy, but when I was able to start pitching again after my elbow surgery it was a lot harder. It was a long frustrating recovery, but if baseball teaches you anything it is how to deal with frustration and failure. It rewards hard work and persistence. So there was really no other choice
but to claw my way back. On one of those long bus rides, I think it was from Reno to Bakersfield I heard Jerry Rafferty’s song Baker Street. One segment
of the lyrics just jumped out at me. I think I listened to Baker Street a thousand times that summer. It was inspirational for me. I planned on working my
way back, all the way to the major leagues.
Just one more year and I was happy. I was called up to the big leagues in June of 1979.
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

 

Brian Kingman reminisces…

1983 Topps…neon eyesores.

This is the speech former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman gave at the MSBL 25th Anniversary banquet. It is held at the end of the MSBL World Series, which is held in Phoenix every fall. MSBL stands for Mens Senior Baseball League.
I originally e-mailed Brian about an autograph request, and he has been the most cerebral, down to earth, and charming athlete I have ever “met.” I found it interesting to learn that he is an avid reader as well. He has been nothing but cool about answering my geeky “fan boy” questions, and I am eternally grateful for his input. I have taken liberties (not many) with the speech to make it sound less like a speech to a large audience and more steadily readable to an audience of one.   
By Brian Kingman

I attended my first game at the age of 8 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Dodger Stadium was not in existence yet. The Dodgers were playing the much hated Giants, and Don Drysdale was pitching.  Attending that game made a tremendous impression on me. It wasn’t just the game itself, it was being in the middle of
30-40,000 cheering people, mostly adults, who were invested in the outcome of the game. It was at that point I began to see baseball as more than just ‘a game’.

My parents made me attend church every Sunday, but by the age of 9 or 10 I decided that baseball was my religion. Koufax and Drysdale might as well have been gods, and Vin Scully, the Dodgers radio voice the High Priest. Each game was like a sermon. You learned about baseball, the players, and the history of the game.
One day in the 5th grade, my best friend found out that Sandy Koufax was going to be speaking at
a $100 a plate luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was about a four mile bike ride from where we
lived, and it was in the middle of the week, so we would have to figure out how to miss school.

When we arrived at the Hilton, we searched until we found the banquet room where Sandy was the guest of honor. We asked the doorman if we could just look in and actually see Koufax. When he opened the door we saw Sandy sitting at a podium at the front of a large banquet room with at least 300 people having lunch and listening to various speakers. We both waved at Sandy, much to our surprise, he waved back. 200-sandy-koufax
It made our day!

We thanked the doorman and asked if Koufax would be coming out through these doors because we wanted to get his autograph. He told us that he would and we walked off looking for a good place to wait. As we were walking away, the doorman said, “Hey boys come back here”. He told us that Sandy wanted us to come in and join the luncheon. We couldn’t believe it, and we knew no one back at school was going to believe us either.

The waiters actually set up another table for us in the very front of the room, right near the podium. We were surrounded by wealthy businessmen wearing suits, and there we were in our jeans and T-shirts. It’s not everyday you get to meet God, but on that day 50 years ago, we thought we had. Needless to say, Sandy autographed our baseballs for us but it was so
much more than just an autograph he had given us. It was a priceless memory and an act of kindness which showed that Koufax was more than just a great pitcher

Becoming a professional baseball player was a life long goal. Signing a contract to play in the Oakland A’s minor league system was emotionally satisfying, validating years of hard work. However as satisfying as it was there was also a downside to professional baseball. Everyone who has ever played professional baseball learns very quickly, that although the competition is better and the game itself hadn’t changed, we weren’t just playing baseball anymore. We were in the business of playing baseball. kingman062111

Every minor league player has the same dream and shares a common goal: playing in the big leagues. But for 95% of them, the dream comes to an end in the minor leagues. To see one of your teammates released, and realizing it was the end of a life-long dream was painful. It was almost as if someone had died, in a very real way part of them had. The joyful innocence of a neighborhood pick-up game was a distant memory, replaced by the harsh realities of professional baseball.

Most of the players I have known will tell you that their time in the minor leagues was more enjoyable than the time spent in the major leagues, if for no other reason than minor league players spend more time together. Major league players live with their families at home and have a room to themselves on the road. Minor league players are roommates at home and on the road. They endure 10 hour bus rides, worry about playing time, slumps, injuries, and the possibility of being released. Most of all they share the dream of playing in the big leagues.

I got off to a great start in my second year playing for the 1976 Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double A affiliate for the Oakland A’s.
I was 8-3 half way through the season, had a moving fastball in the mid 90’s, and good command of a sharp breaking slider. If it
wasn’t for the fact that the A’s were a team with several established veteran pitchers, I would likely have been called up to the
big leagues.

In 1976, baseball was in the early years of free agency. By mid-season, A’s owner Charles Finley decided to trade and sell off his star players rather than lose them to free agency. Catfish Hunter had been traded to the Yankees and Reggie Jackson to the Orioles. When Finley attempted to sell Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and Sal Bando, Bowie Kuhn who was the Commissioner of baseball prohibited the sale, saying that, “It wasn’t in the best interests of baseball”. Well it would have been in my best interests!

There is a very good chance that if those transactions had been allowed, I would have been pitching for the A’s that summer. Unfortunately I tore a tendon in my elbow later that season, eventually underwent elbow surgery, and spent the next two years
rehabbing, trying to get back on the path to the big leagues. I became a different pitcher by necessity. The velocity and movement on my fastball were diminished, and a curveball replaced my slider. The narrow and treacherous path to the big
leagues became even more precarious.
In June of 1979, I finally made it to the promised land, and won my first game in Yankee Stadium in July. I felt privileged to
have competed on the same field as Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, but even better having beaten the defending World Champions. I ended up with a with a 8-7 record on a team that lost 108 games.

Prior to the 1980 season the A’s hired Billy Martin to manage the team. He turned a horrible (54-108) team into a winning
team (83-79) by maximizing the teams strengths which were starting pitching and speed. Rickey Henderson stole 100 bases.
We led the league in ERA and set a modern-day record with 94 complete games.

1980 was also the year I lost 20 games. Despite pitching well, I suffered from a lack of offensive support. 20 game losers
are almost always found on 90-100 loss teams. However, I managed to lose 20 games on a winning team, something that
hadn’t been done since 1922, and very likely will never happen again. The hardest part of losing 20 games for me was the
fact that I was the only one losing. The twenty game losers on those 100 loss teams had company. They say misery loves
company, well I was all alone!

Billy Martin was a great manager. Few could match his knowledge of the game and none could match his willingness
to take risks. He was a master of the element of surprise. Billy was a very intense individual. His intensity was both his
greatest strength and his greatest weakness. The famous Lombardi quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”,
is the perfect description of what Billy was like. For Billy, losing was like a small piece of death.

billyAs a player Billy was combative and frequently involved in fights. As a manager Billy could go from a great motivator to a bullying tyrant very quickly. He occasionally became involved in fights on and off the field, several of them with his own pitchers. One night at the hotel bar in Kansas City after a loss Billy decided he wanted to fight me. I didn’t see it as a wise decision for
either of us. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good career move for me, and Billy was sure to get at least a short beating before thecoaches could intervene. We walked outside, me alone, and Billy with his entourage, his coaches as bodyguards, to get it on. When Rickey Henderson noticed everyone headed outside he asked what was going on. He was told to not get involved. To his
credit he thought I looked outnumbered and disobeyed the coaches. Rickey was there for me if I needed help.

Billy began by poking me in the chest with his finger. I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let him retract it. He tried to swing his other hand at me and I grabbed it too. The coaches rushed in to break it up, no punches landed by either side. Needless to say, 1980 was a very long year for me. Losing 20 games in a season is hard on any pitcher but doing it for Billy Martin made it twice as hard.

Billy could play the nice guy too. One time on a flight after I had pitched well but lost, he told Art Fowler to bring me up to the front
of the plane where Billy and the coaches sat. He told me I had thrown a great game that day and he was proud of me. He said,
“Next year will better. You’re going to win 20 games next year”. I returned to the back of the plane and about 10 minutes later I see Art coming down the aisle again looking straight at me. “Billy wants to see you again” Art said. This time Billy was on his second bottle of wine. He said, “With you’re stuff your going to win 23 games for us next season”. The guys in the back of the plane wanted to know what Billy had told me. I said “The first time he said I was going to be a 20 game winner next year, and
this time I had made it up to 23 wins. If this flight lasts long enough, who knows, I might have had a shot at winning 30!”

The next two years saw us go from a playoff team in 1981 to a 4th place finish in 1982. Our pitching staff that had completed
154 out of 271 games during the 1980 & 1981 seasons began to show symptoms of overuse. Billy’s relationship with the owners deteriorated quickly, and he was fired after the season. I was sold to Boston and ended my career with the Giants.

Baseball comes to an end for everyone who has played the game. The end may come in high school, college, or perhaps
in professional baseball. Very few leave the game on their own terms. The longer you play the game the more it becomes
a part of your life and the harder it is to say goodbye.

satch

The great Satchel Paige.

Satchel Paige was right when he said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”. For a very longtime, that “something” was my baseball career. It was several years before I could enjoy talking about it and revisiting the memories.
The end of a career can be like a divorce when someone you still love has decided to move on without you.

Despite not throwing a baseball for 25 years, teammates from college and high school convinced me to play baseball again in the MSBL World Series. What I discovered playing MSBL was beyond my greatest expectations. I rediscovered the joyful innocence
of playing baseball we all experienced as kids, playing the game because we love it. It was almost a shock to see guys hustling and playing hard because they wanted to and having a great time.

Baseball has always been more than just a game. Playing baseball for me is like going home again. New friends are made, and old friends are reunited. Vin Scully once said “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game” For some of us it has been five of six decades since our first game as a kid, yet it too seems like a mere moment.
Our time together is magical, but unfortunately comes to an end all too soon.

They say that professional athletes die twice in this life, and the first time is when you stop playing. Thanks to the Mens Senior Baseball League, I am still trying to decide if I have been reincarnated or born again. Either way I consider myself lucky, not everyone gets to die three times. No worries though, old ballplayers never die, they just fade away.

Kingman kicks Billy Martin’s ass.

briankingman

Ass kicker.

 By Brian Kingman

Billy Martin was well known for drinking to excess and for rowdy behavior when drinking. A group of Yankees met at the famous Copacabana nightclub to celebrate Martin’s 29th birthday; the party ultimately erupted into a much publicized brawl, which resulted in Billy being traded to the Kansas City A’s. This would run his ‘fight record” to 4-1, as well as separate him from his beloved Yankees and his best friend Mickey Mantle.

Then 25 years after the Copa, and 13 years after his fight with Dave Boswell, Billy entered uncharted waters. In June of 1982 while the Oakland A’s were on a road trip in Kansas City Billy got into a heated conversation with me that he felt he wanted to finish outside.
Whereas Boswell was a 20 game winner in 1969 (also the year of his fight with Billy) I was a 20 game loser. Never, I repeat NEVER! underestimate the underlying rage and frustrations that losing 20 games can produce. Especially with a 20 game loser who had been seething over being called a dummy for pitch selection by his manager, who had called the pitches! That was our topic of conversation that wonderful night in Kansas City.
Once outside on that humid night in Kansas City I was ready for Billy’s renowned cheap shot antics. I also knew there was little to no danger. If Billy even landed a punch it was unlikely to have much of an impact. He enjoyed his reputation as a fighter, and wearing his black cowboy hat. I respected all of that and the fact that he was a great manager (on the field) but no, I’m sorry, ain’t no one gonna be kicking my ass…..with just a big mouth a cowboy hat and a reputation. They’re gonna have to bring it on!
So there we were face to face with Billy’s coaches nearby for his protection. He was yelling at me and I yelled back at him. Then he started to jab his finger in my chest. After the second or third time poking me in the chest, sure enough, here came the sucker punch. But I was waiting for it and grabbed his arm gave it a twist and had him in a head lock. I handed him to a coach for safe keeping, just as the rest of the coaches were jumping in to separate us. Art Fowler the pitching coach punched me in the face but I believe it was for Billy to see and hear about as evidence of Art coming to his defense, because there was nothing behind the punch.
Rickey was there but I think he was just trying to keep from laughing at this point. But I was glad he was there for two reasons. One was that you never know what can happen and two, you never know what the “official version” of what happened will be unless you have at least one credible witness. Rickey was willing to get involved even though he had nothing to gain and that should tell you all you need to know about Rickey as a teammate.
The next day I gave Art a thank you card and offering a rematch signed “Muhammad Ali Kingman” and we all laughed about it. Well at least Art and I did. Yes I am calling it a KO because that was the ultimate outcome if the fight hadn’t been stopped….by ME!oakland8
Later that year Billy took on the wall in his office, but we decided the wall won from the look of Billy’s hands and his defeated look that night.
I did hear that Billy got the better of a porcelain urinal the next season. Can’t imagine what the urinal did to piss him off, but I am sure they had an interesting conversation before it came to blows. In 1985 Ed Whitson administered Billy’s final ass kicking, helping to avenge the losses incurred by Tommy Lasorda, Jim Brewer and Dave Boswell who I am sure were all smiling when they heard the news. I know I was.