'Stache? Check. 7 o'clock shadow? Check. Tight pants? Check. Mediocre career? Check.
Why we like him: In all seriousness, if you're under the age of 20, and you hear about a player who spent an 11-year career with just the Pirates and the Royals, you'd feel awful for the guy. Jeff King, however, was a pretty good player during a time when being just that still meant something. Over the course of his career, King batted .256 with 154 home runs and 709 RBI in 1,201 games. Despite two very good seasons (in my worthless opinon, that is, in 1993 and 1996), he was never an All Star selection, sadly.
King was the first overall pick in the 1986 draft. After putting together an impressive college career at the University of Arkansas, most scouts believed King was a can't-miss prospect, and the Pirates pounced on the opportunity to draft him. As it turned out, the '86 draft just wasn't very deep, yielding just five first-rounders who went on to become All Stars (Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Matt Williams, Greg Swindell, and Roberto Hernandez). It took five seasons for King to find his groove in the majors, and he eventually became a fairly productive hitter in 1993. He played 8 seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded after his career-best 1996 season along with Jay Bell to Kansas City for Joe Randa and three other guys that probably nobody in either city can remember. He put in three seasons with the Royals before hanging up his spikes after the 1999 season.
During the time that the Pittsburgh Pirates were emerging as World Series contenders in the early 1990s, Jeff King was being to make his mark on the league. Then-manager Jim Leyland was routinely batting King sixth behind Bonds, Van Slyke, and Bonilla where King could be effective mopping up RBIs and just putting the bat on the ball. Another benefit King provided was his ability to play at first, second, or third base. Just tell him a postition to run toward, and he'd play it as hard as he could. He might have even hit a little too.
To be honest, I hated the Pirates when I was a kid, but Jeff King was one of my favorite players in the game. I can't relly describe why I liked him so much, other than by saying he was a very, very poor man's Don Mattingly. He was everything a ballplayer should be. He always looked filthy, liked his eye black, had an ugly mustache, looked mean as a snake, and he even wore the uniform the right way. I guarantee you that the game misses Jeff King more than Jeff King probably misses the game.
Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff King, Ballplayer.