Manager Earl Weaver is fond of placing calls to a mythical Dr. Longball when Baltimore needs a home run. The New York Mets only wish they had had Longball's number last year, when they managed a measly 61 circuit clouts, worst in the majors.
Having the slugging Yankees (189 homers last season) as neighbors makes the Mets' powerless hitting all the more apparent. Hoping to bring some long-ball excitement back to Shea Stadium, the Mets have reacquired enigmatic home run threat Dave Kingman from the Chicago Cubs.
The trade, which sent Stave Henderson to Chicago, returns the National League's 1979 home-run champion to the Mets after a 3 1/2-year absence. Kingman had 36 and 37 homers during his last full seasons in New York, but only 18 last year when injuries limited him to 81 games.
As a drawing card, Dave may never be in Reggie Jackson's league. He is a very private person who's been known to antagonize the press. If his bat can do some talking, though, maybe the Mets can close the attendance gap (1.2 million to 2.6 million) that separated them from the Yankees last season.
Of course, general manager Frank Cashen says the club "didn't bring him over here because Kingman's box office. We did it because we want to win." The Mets finished fifth last year in the National League East.