Finally, people may give George Steinbrenner some credit.

The New York Yankee owner figured out what be needed to make his team complete: an unsigned, reclusive, discontented 6-foot-6 Greta Garbo in spikes who hits 600-foot home runs and terkies out 33 per cent of the time.

Fortunately for Steinbrenner, just such an item was on the market - slightly used, a bit tarnished, but definitely a bargain.

Welcome, Dave (Kong) Kingman. Take this stool between Mickey Rivers and Ken Holtzman. You thought no one had a temperament as sensitive as yours, a psyche so easlily bruised. And now here are three of you sitting a row.

Got any problems? Just ask Thurman Munson or Reggie Jackson for advice.

Don't worry about those long, sharp toothpicks in Cliff Johnson's hair. He probably won't stick them in your eyes, even if you are after his job.

And who says the rich don't get ficher?

"It's wonderful," deadpanned catcher Fran Healy when he heard the Yanks had picked up Kingman on waivers last Thursday. "King Kong is just what this clubhouse lacked."

Kingman, who had three tape-measure home runs, a double, a single, six RBI and five strikeouts in his first 10 Yankee at-bats, may cause an entire reshuffling of the Yankee pecking order.

"We already have Capt. Moody (Munson). Lt. Moody (Rivers), Sgt. Moody (Holtzman) and Pvt. Moody (Willie Randolph)." said one Yankee, whose own nickname is Puff the Magic Dragon. "We may make Dave Commander Moody."

In any other clubhouse, such talk would be mutiny. But the Yankees have survived this Pearl harbor of a season because they are perhaps the most acid-tongued, thick-skinned, insult-you-to-your-face team that has ever spit tobacco juice on a team-mate's new Gucci loafers.

The irony of Kingman in pinstripes is that he really does fit on this Yankee team as he might not anywhere else.

His enormous pride and constant search for privacy, his hatred of all interrogation, his fierce knack for following his whims - even if they have led him to four teams already this season - are worthy of a Steinbrenner Yankee.

"George is fascinated by specimens who are one of a kind," said one Yankee. "He's a collector by nature. The more unique, the more outrageous something is, the more he wants it."

I originally thought they'd obtained me to play (two games) in Boston," said Kingman Monday night, surprised that he had only been used as a pinch hitter (result: a monster home run).

"But if you're going to write that," added the unsigned Kingman, quickly adapting to the Yankee style, "finish it by saying Billy Martin must have had his reasons and I'm not second guessing him."

After his debut, many Yanks now think that their owner will inevitably fall in love with Kingman and forget all other loyalties.

"The Yankees have plenty of money and they'll spend it," said third baseman Graig Nettles. "I think we'll end up signing him.

"On most clubs, you'd worry about morale. He'd have to take the job of someone who'd contributed here for a long time. But this organization is pretty cold-hearted. What you've done in the past doesn't mean much."

Candidates for extinction are left-fielder Roy White, who has a weak arm, little power and is keeping the disgruntled Randolph from batting second, plus JOhnson and Lou Piniella, designated hitters.

Another beautiful martin-versus-Steinbrenner bout could brew over this one. Loyalty, especially to players who have served well in the past, is the No. 1 value in Martin's view. It isn't in Steinbrenner's top 10.

Kingman started the year as a New York Mets fixture, a drawing card, the most prodigious distance slugger in the game the last two seasons.

But Kingman, forgetting his chronically low average, his strikeouts, his few walks, his fielding limitations and above all the Mets' legendary tight-fistedness, insisted on a multiyear contract at roughly $250,000 a year.

The miffed, and perhaps foolish, Mets traded him to San Diego for the equivalent of a few broken bats. From there, Kingman was bounced on waivers to California (which despaired of signing him) and now New York.

If Kingman's open market value was shringking with each pink slip, it has soared in the last few days. Already fans are noticing that Kingman has 25 homers this year, despite his various stops.