Results tagged ‘ dave winfield ’
As hard as he tried and he tried real hard, George Steinbrenner couldn’t get me and quite a few other Yankee fans to dislike this very talented, hardworking outfielder. I’ve been following Yankee baseball passionately since 1960 and I’ve seen no starting left fielder perform any better in Pinstripes than Mr. Winfield did.
Let’s go back in time. By 1976 after over a decade of mediocre team performances, Yankee fans were starving for postseason play and we were ready to accept anybody or anything that could get us there. In George Steinbrenner, we had an owner who would do absolutely anything to make the Yankees winners again and when free agency dawned, the perfect storm situation necessary to get New York back to the World Series was in place. But we fans had to pay a price for the return to glory and that price included Billy Martin’s embarrassing behavior, the Bronx Zoo clubhouse atmosphere, and Mr. Steinbrenner’s inability to understand that success on the field was not always directly proportional to how much money a team spent.
The Boss’s first wave of free agent investments had indeed returned almost instant dividends. Expensive hired hands like Catfish Hunter, Don Gullett, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage helped the Yankees not just get back to the World Series after a dozen-year absence, but also win two of the three the team played in during the second half of the 1970s. But by 1980, Gullett and Hunter were gone, Steinbrenner had tired of Jackson’s ego and after Thurman Munson’s death and the Yankee’s loss to the Royals in the 1980 ALCS, the Boss was ready to again open the Yankee wallet and buy the player who he felt would lead New York to a whole new decade of World Championships. That player was supposed to be Dave Winfield.
The Boss absolutely believed that because he gave Winfield a ton of cash and a ten-year contract to play for the Yankees, he had single-handedly guaranteed not just a slew of postseason appearances for his team but postseason success. Before that could happen, however, the 1981 player strike seriously degraded the relationship between owners and players. Then the Yankee’s new left-fielder hit .054 in the 1981 World Series. Even worse, that 1981 Fall Classic defeat to the Dodgers turned out to be the Yankees’ last postseason appearance for the next 14 seasons. George behaved as if he honestly felt this disastrous turn in his team’s fortunes was Winfield’s fault. He derisively nicknamed him Mr. May and then got himself embroiled up to his turtlenecked neck in the now infamous Howie Spira scandal to try and get rid of the future Hall-of-Famer and his contract.
Winfield just kept on playing. In spite of being pilfered in the NY media and actually getting booed by Yankee fans for challenging Don Mattingly for the 1984 AL batting title, the guy played every inning of every Yankee game at full and focused speed. He drove in runners, he hit more home runs than a right hand hitter is expected to hit in Yankee Stadium, and he kept himself out of the spotlight off the field. He was a great Yankee who played for the team at the wrong time and got a raw deal.
It was nice to see that Steinbrenner had buried his animosity with Winfield and invited him back to the Yankee family. It’s even nicer to see that Winfield has
graciously accepted that invitation. Dave was born in St Paul and turns sixty-years-old today.
Winfield shares his October 3rd birthday with one of the strangest pitchers to ever wear a Yankee uniform.
After nine and one half seasons with the Angels, Witt came to New York in 1990 in the horrible Yankee trade that took Dave Winfield out of pinstripes. George Steinbrenner’s disgraceful efforts to use a brain-damaged con-man named Howie Spira to dig up dirt on his star outfielder had poisoned Winfield’s relationship with the Yankee front office. In trading for Witt, the Yankees were hoping to put the whole sad situation behind them while at the same time acquiring a veteran right-hander with one of the league’s best curve balls for their very weak starting rotation. Witt had won 109 games for the Angels but had gone 9-15 in ’89 and was 0-3 at the time of the trade. I realized Winfield was no spring chicken back then, but I clearly remember thinking at the time that the Yankees were getting the short end of that deal and I was right.
Witt won just eight more games during the next three plus seasons for New York. He spent most of that time including all of 1992 on the injured reserve list. Winfield went on to give the Angels two decent seasons of production and still had enough in the tank to drive in 108 runs for the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays and help them win a World Championship. Witt retired in 1993 after collecting $7.5 million Yankee dollars to appear in just 27 games. He shares his birthday with the first catcher in franchise history to start in that position for five straight seasons.