Former Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Kingman featured with the A’s Five Aces in 1981 on Sports Illustrated (top far right) is today’s He Was A Giant? Feature (file photo from newsbreak.com)
HE WAS A GIANT?
By Tony The Tiger Hayes
BRIAN KINGMAN: Oakland’s Big Time Loser, Was Worse with San Francisco
Brian Kingman – RHP – 1983 – # 25
If a 20-game win season is the magnum opus for a starting pitcher, you would figure that 20 losses would be the equivalent of finding a turd in the punch bowl.
But not for Brian Kingman.
Since losing 20 games for the 1980 Oakland A’s, Kingman has not only accepted his place in the 20-game loss fraternity, he has became the ignominious club’s self-appointed president, treasurer and spokesperson.
His 20 -game loser status has became Kingman’s calling card – his reason to be remembered.
“I feel sorry for all those guys who (only) get to 19 wins – all that frustration and never be talked about,” Kingman, tongue pressed only partially in cheek, once said. “They might as well take the final step and lose 20.”
Kingman did not lose 20 games for the Giants in 1983 – in fact he had no desisions in the three games he appeared.
But the Los Angeles native did something as a Giant that he didn’t do quite as often as you might have thought in his Oaklandish 20-game loss season.
As a Giant, Kingman pitched exceptionally ghastly.
Why Was He A Giant?
After going 4-12, 4.48 for the 1982 A’s, Kingman was dealt to the Red Sox in a cash deal. But Kingman failed to make the Boston roster the following spring and wound up hooking on with San Francisco.
He debuted in Orange & Black at Candlestick Park in a pair of games vs. Montreal in early June and was promptly battered by Expos hitters.
After two relief outings he was suffering from a 13.50 ERA, which was worse than the 9.00 figure posted by slugger Dave Kingman after his two random mop-up relief appearances for the 1973 Giants.
Before & After
As a rookie in 1979, Brian Kingman was one of the bright spots for Oakland, going 8-7, 4.31 for a confused Green & Gold club that lost a staggering 107 games.
But the A’s made an incredible turnaround the following season after the hiring of fabled firebrand skipper Billy Martin.
An unforeseen Oakland team stunned the Junior Circuit posting a winning record (83-79) with an appealing brand of baseball that relied on daring base running, power hitting and macho starting pitching.
A’s iron -armed starters would complete a staggering 94 games that season. Kingman threw 10 of those full-games, but even that meaty figure ranked fifth among A’s starters.
Despite his very reasonable 3.83 ERA over 211.1 innings, Kingman frequently pitched in tough luck in ‘80.
He lost six one-run decisions. The A’s were shutout in five of his starts and OakTown scored a paltry average of 2.8 runs in his 30 starts.
Kingman had lost nine decisions in a row when Martin mercifully (Billy had a ❤️!) yanked the righty from the rotation late in the campaign with 19 losses on his ledger.
Still, like Wilbur Wood, Jerry Koosman and Phil Niekro, the three previous 20 game losers prior to Kingman – it seemed Kingman was destined to be a historic flop.
Ironically, Kingman’s 20th loss came in relief in a game he would have normally been scheduled to start.
Kingman was forced into the game in the second inning of a game vs. the visiting White Sox when starter Matt Keough was pulled from the game with an injury.
Kingman would allow just two earned runs over 5.2 innings of work in a 6-4 home defeat, but he absorbed the loss when the A’s kicked the ball around like FC Barcelona, committing four errors (9/25/80).
“I thought I was going to be stuck 19,” Kingman quipped at the time.
More than 20 seasons would pass before Mike Maroth of Detroit became baseball’s next 20 game loser. There have been none since.
By the way, the Giants have not had a 20 game loser during their SF era.
He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…
Several days after his distressing Giants debut, Kingman made his third and final Giants appearance at Atlanta and pitched decently – allowing three hits and one unearned run over two innings in a 7-3 loss to the Braves (6/10/83).
But it was too little, too late and Kingman was soon optioned to Triple-AAA Phoenix. He pitched in the Giants system through 1984 but never returned to the majors.
In the World Series era, 189 pitchers have lost at least 20 games in a MLB season. The group includes several excellent pitchers including a few of immortals, including Hall of Famers Niekro, Steve Carlton, Cy Young and Walter Johnson
That fact has helped Kingman salve the sting of being labeled a big-time loser.
“That would be like if you were a scientist getting linked to Einstein or something,” Kingman said. “I was being mentioned with Walter Johnson and Cy Young.”