Monday, November 12, 2012

#456 - Dave Winfield

These cards are always fun – a rookie card of a Hall-of-Famer. Dave Winfield looks poised and cocky at Jack Murphy Stadium probably shortly after his debut. Dave went straight from the College World Series to the Padres in ’73 and never looked back, playing not one inning of minor league ball. He had quite a busy year, jumping from the NIT’s in hoops to the baseball season to the pros, much of it related on the card back. And his rookie stats, while not overwhelming, were pretty good when one considers the team on which Dave played. But perhaps his most telling statistic, which doesn’t appear anywhere on the card, is that Dave, relatively flush with his “around $100,000” signing bonus, was already buying up groups of tickets to home games to donate to local hard-luck kids and their families. Seems Dave started being a good guy at a young age.

Dave Winfield was born and raised in St. Paul and played hoops and baseball in high school. Drafted by the Orioles upon graduating in ’69 he instead opted for a full ride for baseball at the University of Minnesota where he continued both sports (more on the back). The Padres nabbed him in the first round of ’73 and he was on the field shortly after the end of the CWS in which his guys were runner-ups to USC. Until then Dave was actually primarily a pitcher but following the Goldpanners’ lead San Diego told him he was strictly a fielder and so Dave set up shop in the outfield, the first couple seasons in left and then for the duration of his Padres years in right. He pretty much improved every year, posting his first 25-homer and 90-RBI season his first of twelve successive All-Star seasons in ’77. His best season was probably ’79 when he hit .308 with a .395 OBA, 34 homers, and 118 RBI’s and won his first of what would be seven Gold Gloves in the next nine seasons. He also ramped up his charity work, adding health care to his menu and having part of his renegotiated salary go directly to buy tickets for the kids. In ’80 his numbers came in a bit and after the season he became a free agent, signing with the Yankees.

Winfield’s timing in moving to Yankee Stadium wasn’t crazy great. His first year was the strike one and while his numbers pretty much paralleled his best back in San Diego and he won the first of his six Silver Sluggers he sort of imploded in the post-season although I will say he forever endeared himself to this fan when he asked for the ball after his lone Series hit against LA. With Reggie leaving prior to the next season the Yankees fell into a prolonged rut post-season-wise though Dave put up excellent numbers the rest of the decade, averaging about 26 homers and 104 RBI’s his seven full seasons. He was also a class act, continuing to expand his foundation and handling George Steinbrenner’s constantly berating crap with poise and humor. In ’89 he hurt his back and missed the entire season and after a slow start to the follow-up season was traded that May to the Angels for pitcher Mike Witt. The balance of that year and the next went pretty well and in ’90 he won Comeback Player of the Year. He again became a free agent after the ’91 season and signed with Toronto for whom he DH’d and won his final Silver Slugger in his last 100-RBI year. He also finally got back to the post-season and while his numbers weren’t so great, he did get some redemption by knocking in the Series-winner against Atlanta. It was a one-year gig and he signed with his – nearly – hometown Twins in ’93 at age 41, putting up 21 homers and recording his 3,000th hit. In ’94 he endured another strike year and during it was traded to Cleveland. By then his back was a hot mess and once that season started he put in a few games at DH but missed the post-season and then retired. He hit .283 for his career with 3,110 hits, 540 doubles, 88 triples, 465 homers, and 1,833 RBI’s. His OBA was .353, definitely not a HOF value, but pretty good in light of his enormous strike zone. Defensively he is currently 20th all-time in assists from right field. In the post-season he hit .208 with a couple homers and nine RBI’s in 26 games.

Winfield has remained pretty high-profile and busy since his playing days. He has broadcast for both Fox and ESPN and has had a morning radio show on the west coast. He has also done one-off narration gigs for various specials. He does speaking gigs all the time and remains actively involved with his and other athletes’ foundations. He was inducted into the Hall on his first ballot in 2001.

Dave’s card back is all college stuff so this is a good place to toss around information about his younger days. In high school both he and his brother were on two American Legion state champs. At Minnesota Dave played freshman hoops and baseball and after a sophomore year off from the former sport made the varsity team as a walk-on his junior year. He averaged 5.4 rebounds and nearly seven points per game as Minnesota won the Big Ten and made it to the second round of the NCAA’s. His senior year he upped his numbers to 6.1 rpg and 10.5 ppg as the team had a better overall record and went to the NIT”s. In baseball he made varsity his sophomore year and his first two seasons was pretty much exclusively a pitcher. In the summer of ’71 he played for the Goldpanners in Alaska where he pitched and hit well. When he returned to Alaska after his junior year in ’72 the Goldpanners decided his bat was of more value and he was made an outfielder, pitching more sparingly. His two-year stats in Alaska were 13-4 with a 3.71 ERA, five saves, and 143 strikeouts in 128 innings with a .308 average, 18 homers, and 72 RBI’s in 84 games. He was the team MVP his second year. His senior year at Minnesota he followed suit, getting lots more at bats. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .384 with eight homers and 33 RBI’s. On the mound that year he was 9-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 62 innings (the card says 82 but the 62 seems more likely for ten starts). For his career at Minnesota he hit .354 with nine homers and 42 RBI’s in 64 games. Regarding the draft bullet, the one unnamed team was the Utah Stars, who were led by Willie Wise and Ron Boone. Dave sported a pretty kicking ‘fro back then so it would have been fun to see Willie and him and their hair on the courts together. Here they are:

For San Diego’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial the team offered up Nate Colbert’s big day in a ’72 double-header. The games took place August 1 at Atlanta and Nate went a combined seven for nine with seven runs scored and 13 RBI’s. His first game line was 5-3-4-5 with a single and two homers. The second game line was 4-4-3-8 with all the hits being homers, one a grand slam. He raised his average 14 points that day which is an awfully tough thing to do that late in a season. Ironically Dave’s coming of age for the Padres is one thing that eventually made Nate expendable.

With two left coast guys this exercise gets pretty easy:

1. Winfield and Tito Fuentes ’75 to ’76 Padres;
2. Fuentes and Tom Bradley ’73 to ’74 Giants.


  1. Once in while the Big Ten Network shows a half hour documentary about Dave's multi sport career. It has rare pictures and film. Ironically one version of Dave's Gopher uniform is high similar to the Padres all mustard yellow. He was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, making him maybe the only person to be drafted in 3 sports by four teams.

  2. In Winfield's mid-80s autobiography he said that when he was a kid he also used to play goalie in neighborhood hockey games.

    Now that must have been something.

  3. h for the days when this was simply his first card, with no hoopla over rookie cards.