Dave Winfield: 31 Days until Padres’ Opening Day

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Credit: AP Photo

The Right Spot

If there was a position to clone in the history of the San Diego Padres, it would be hard to find a more formidable one than right field. 

Of course, Tony Gwynn comes to mind, but don’t you forget the Friars have also had the likes of Ollie Brown, Brian Giles, and even Fernando Tatis Jr. (soon). 

From 1973 to 1980, the Padres had the great David Mark Winfield.

All-Around Athlete

A 12-time MLB All-Star, a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a six-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Winfield did not have many weaknesses when it came to baseball or sports in general.

Winfield was a star athlete in college from 1970 to 1973, where he starred in baseball and basketball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Winfield also played collegiate summer baseball for the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks for two seasons (1971–72) and was the MVP in 1972. 

He was named All-American and voted MVP of the College World Series in 1973 as a pitcher. 

Following college, Winfield became the third player ever (Mickey McCarty and George Carter) to be drafted by four teams in three different sports. 

The San Diego Padres selected him as a pitcher with the fourth overall pick in the MLB draft. Winfield was also drafted by the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) in the 5th round of the 1973 NBA Draft and by the Utah Stars (ABA) in the 6th round of the 1973 ABA Draft. Despite not playing football in college, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Winfield in the 17th round of the 1973 NFL Draft. 

ESPN ranked Winfield in 2004 as the third-best all-around athlete of all time in any sport.

Dave Winfield

Despite having several options, Winfield chose to play for the San Diego Padres. who promoted him directly to the major leagues. Even though he was a pitcher in college, the Padres liked his “rifle arm” and put him out in right field.

It paid off, and Winfield hit .277 in 56 games in his rookie season.

Getting better each season, Winfield made the All-Star team in 1977. It was his first of 12 straight appearances at the Midsummer Classic. 

In eight seasons with the Padres, Winfield hit 154 home runs while batting .284 and driving in 626 runs. 

After the 1980 season, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner signed Winfield to a ten-year, $23 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in baseball. 

Steinbrenner mistakenly thought he was signing Winfield for $16 million, unaware of the meaning of a cost-of-living clause in the contract. The misunderstanding led to an infamous public feud throughout his tenure with the team.

Credit: AP Photo

After missing the entire 1989 season due to a back injury, tensions escalated again between Winfield and Steinbrenner. The Yankees traded Winfield across the country to the California Angels, where he would win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. 

In 1991, Winfield hit his 400th home run after being stuck on 399 for 10 days.

“Three-ninety-nine sounds like something you’d purchase at a discount store. Four hundred sounds so much better,” Winfield told reporters. 

In 1992, Winfield signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays and eventually had the winning hit in the World Series that season over the Atlanta Braves.

Winfield retired in 1996 and finished his career with 3,110 hits (22nd in MLB history), 540 doubles (39th), 1,669 runs scored (30th), 465 HR’s (36th), 1,833 RBIs (19th), 223 SBs, and a .283 batting average. 

In 2001, Winfield became a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the first Padres player to don a Padres cap in Cooperstown. 

Post Retirement

In 1996, Winfield joined the new Major League Baseball on Fox program as studio analyst for their Saturday MLB coverage.

From 2001 to 2013, Winfield served as executive vice president/senior advisor of the San Diego Padres.

In 2006, Winfield teamed up with conductor Bob Thompson to create The Baseball Music Project, a series of concerts that celebrate the history of baseball, with Winfield serving as host and narrator.

On March 31, 2009, Winfield joined ESPN as an analyst on their Baseball Tonight program.

On December 5, 2013, Winfield was named special assistant to Executive Director Tony Clark at the Major League Baseball Players Association.

In March of 2016, Winfield helped represent Major League Baseball in Cuba during President Obama’s trip to the island in an attempt to help normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.

In addition to working with Major League Baseball, Winfield is now a public speaker and best-selling author. 

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Fun Facts

  • Winfield’s 1972 Minnesota team won a Big Ten Conference basketball championship, the school’s first sole outright championship in 53 years.
  • During the 1972 season, he also was involved in a brawl when Minnesota played Ohio State.
  • Winfield is one of 53 position players to skip the minors and begin their careers in the Majors. He is one of 3 Padres players (Dave Roberts and Xavier Nady) to do so. 
  • In 1978, he was named as the Padres team captain.
  • On August 4, 1983, Winfield killed a seagull by throwing a ball while warming up before the fifth inning of a game at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. Fans responded by hurling obscenities and improvised missiles. After the game, he was brought to a nearby Metropolitan Toronto Police station and charged with cruelty to animals. He was released after posting a $500 bond. Yankee manager Billy Martin quipped, “It’s the first time he’s hit the cutoff man all season.” Charges were dropped the following day.
  • Winfield hit for the cycle with the Angels on June 24, 1991.
  • On September 16, 1993, Winfield singled as a member of the Minnesota Twins to become the 19th member of the elusive 3,000-hit club. 
  • He was inducted into the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame in 2000.
  • On July 4, 2006, Winfield was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in its inaugural class.
  • In 2010, Winfield was selected as one of 28 members of the NCAA Men’s College World Series Legends Team.

Other 31’s 

Winfield was one of 15 players in franchise history to wear #31 for the Padres. Others included LaMarr Hoyt and Ed Whitson

Hoyt went 16-8 with a 3.47 ERA in his first season with the Padres and made the NL All-Star team. 

In eight seasons with the Padres, Whitson pitched to a 77-72 record with a 3.69 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, and 767 strikeouts in 227 games pitched (208 starts) while wearing three different numbers (31, 32, 38).

In 1969 and 1970, the first two seasons in Padres history, seven different players wore #31 for the team. The rotating uniform was worn by Dave Roberts, Frankie Libran, Leon Everitt, Roberto Rodriguez, Jerry Nyman, Paul Doyle, and Rafel Robles. 

The Padres retired Winfield’s No. 31 on April 14, 2001.

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