#Shortstops: King-sized pop-up

Written by: Nicholas DiGrispino

Dave “King Kong” Kingman was a hitter known for his tremendous power. He was also a player who struck out a lot – but when he did make contact the ball typically went a long way.

On May 17, 1979, Kingman showed off that prestigious power to the world in grand fashion. Kingman blasted a ball out to left at Wrigley Field. The ball flew out of Wrigley and across Waveland Avenue and on to Kenmore Avenue where it landed three houses in. The ball is estimated to have landed 550 feet from home plate.

Baseball fans know that each stadium is unique both its design and then in how that stadium will play. An example of this is historic Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Thanks to Bill Veeck, the outfield walls at Wrigley Field are adorned with ivy. The ivy can make any ball hit to the wall an adventure. If an outfielder is wise, he will immediately throw both of his hands into the air. If an outfielder is not wise, the possible outcome are limitless.

By throwing the hands up, that signals to the umpire that the ball is lost in the ivy and per the ground rules, the batter is awarded two bases.

Well, what happens when then is no ground rule governing how the umps should call a particular play? This happened one day in May 1984 and turned what would have been an otherwise ordinary game into one of the most legendary in big league history due to one singular event. And once again, it involved Dave Kingman.

On May 4, 1984, in a game between the Oakland Athletics and the Minnesota Twins at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. In the top of the fourth, with Minnesota leading 2-0, Kingman strode to the plate.

With a 24-year old Frank Viola facing the aging veteran, Kingman would launch a ball approximately 180 feet straight up in the air. Kingman’s ball blasted its way through the Teflon covered roof at the Metrodome between first and second and would not come down.

First baseman, Mickey Hatcher, and second baseman, Tim Teufel, looked up at the sky in bewilderment of what had just transpired. The umps would get together and caucus before awarding Kingman with a ground rule double.

Turns out Kingman’s ball actually was hit through a drainage hole in the roof. The Twins would win the game 3-1. The next day, an employee at the Metrodome went up to retrieve the ball. He dropped the ball back down to earth where Hatcher was waiting to catch it. It did not go well. Hatcher is quoted as telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “I couldn't see the darn thing when they dropped it and it almost hit me in the head.”

On the 20th anniversary of the play, the Twins would bring back both Kingman and Hatcher. Kingman was to throw out the first pitch. Hatcher, as he had done 20 years earlier, stood under the drainage hole as a ball was dropped from the roof where he was to catch it. As with 20 years ago, Hatcher did not catch the ball.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum preserves the ball from the game that Dave Kingman "blasted through the drainage pipe."

Nicholas DiGrispino is the 2022 library research intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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