Dave Winfield

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David Mark Winfield (born October 3, 1951) was one of the best players in Major League Baseball for two decades, and was involved in many well remembered incidents, some humorous and some controversial.

Winfield was born and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where he starred in both basketball and baseball for the Golden Gophers. After hitting and pitching the Gophers to the College World Series in 1973, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres, the Minnesota Vikings despite not playing college football, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Utah Stars of the ABA. He is one of only two men ever drafted in three different pro sports.

Template:MLB HoF Winfield chose baseball, and gained another distinction when the Padres promoted him directly to the majors. This is a rare move in modern baseball, making him one of a select few players since the origins of the amateur draft in 1965 to make the leap straight to Major League Baseball without playing in the minor leagues first. [1] But he proved up to the task, batting .277 in 56 games.

For the next several years, he was a good, but not great player in San Diego, gradually increasing his power and hits totals. He burst into stardom in 1979, when he batted .308 with 34 home runs and 118 RBI, then played one more season with the Padres before becoming a free agent.

In 1981, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made headlines by signing Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract, making him the game's highest-paid player. Winfield was one of the best players in the game throughout the life of the contract, but soon had a falling out with Steinbrenner.

He helped the Yankees to the 1981 American League pennant, but then had a poor World Series, and the Yankees lost in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A bitter Steinbrenner derided Winfield by saying "I got rid of Mr. October (Reggie Jackson) and got Mr. May." The Mr. May sobriquet lived with him for the rest of his career.

He went on to hit 37 home runs in a spectacular 1982 season and batted .340, second in the league to teammate Don Mattingly, in 1984. He drove in 744 runs between 1982 and 1988, won five Gold Glove Awards for his stellar outfield play and was named to the All-Star Game every season.

On August 4, 1983, Winfield, while warming up before the 5th inning of a game at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium, accidentally killed a seagull with a thrown ball. He doffed his cap in mock sorrow. Fans responded by hurling obscenties and improvised missles. After the game, he was brought to the Ontario Provincial Police station on charges of cruelty to animals and was forced to post a $500 bond before being released. Quipped Yankees manager Billy Martin, "It's the first time he's hit the cutoff man." The charges were dropped the following day. For years afterward Winfield's appearances in Toronto were greeted with loud choruses of boos, but he later became a fan favorite.

In 1989, Steinbrenner was suspended from running the Yankees for two years because of his connections to a gambler, whom he'd paid to find embarrassing information on Winfield. The year was no better for Winfield, who sat out 1989 with an injury. The next year, he was traded to the California Angels.

Although in his late 30s, Winfield was still a productive hitter. In 1992, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as their designated hitter, and batted .290 with 26 homers and 108 RBI. The Blue Jays won the pennant, giving Winfield a shot at redemption. In Game 6 of the Series, he delivered with a game-winning two-run double in the 11th inning to win the World Championship for Toronto. He spent 1993 and 94 with the hometown Minnesota Twins, achieving 3000 hits and ended his career with the Cleveland Indians.

Winfield retired in 1995 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility. He became the first player to choose to go into Cooperstown as a Padre -- a move that reportedly irked Steinbrenner so much, he tried to get the Hall of Fame to change its rules not allowing the inductee to chose his team.

He and his wife Tonya have 2 children, twins David and Arielle. He has an adult daughter, Shanel, by former flight attendant Sandra Renfro.

Winfield was born on the same day New York Giant outfielder Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" off Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca.

Quotes

  • Now it's on to May, and you know about me and May. —after setting an American League record for RBI in April, 1988.
  • I am truly sorry that a fowl of Canada is no longer with us. —to the press after being released following the 1983 bird-killing incident.

References

  • Gross, Jane. (August 6, 1983). "Winfield Charges Will be Dropped". New York Times, p. 29.

External links