Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Into the Sunset, Pt. 27: Dave Winfield

On this date twenty-one years ago, Dave Winfield collected his 3,000th hit.

He jumped around a bit during the later stages of his career, so he ended up achieving the feat during his often-forgotten tenure with the Twins. I have a few cards that commemorate the historic moment, but this is far and away the best one.

One could very well argue that Winfield was the best all-around athlete of the latter half of the 20th century. The man was drafted by the Padres in 1973 (as a pitcher, no less) and made the rare jump directly to the bigs without having played in a single minor league game.

However, Winfield was also drafted by both the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and ABA's Utah Stars. Oh, and the Vikings took him in the '73 NFL draft despite the fact that he never played college football.

Of course, Winfield chose baseball. Given that he was born on the same exact day that Bobby Thomson hit his famed "Shot Heard 'Round the World" (October 3rd, 1951), it almost seems like fate.

I tend to forget that Winfield is a member of the 3,000-hit club because I associate him so much with being a hulking power guy.

That, and the fact that his last few years in the majors weren't exactly anything to write home about.

Dave Winfield played for five teams during his last six years in the bigs.

His final stop came with the Indians in 1995. The story of how he arrived there is one of my personal favorite tidbits of baseball lore.

The Twins and Indians had a trade in place to send Winfield to Cleveland a short while before baseball went on strike in 1994. Once order was restored the following year, the clubs weren't sure how to work out the details of the deal since such a long period of time had elapsed.

A couple members from the Indians brass took some of the Twins management out for a meal shortly after the strike was resolved, and they called it even. So, yes, Dave Winfield was once traded for a few plates of dinner. I hope the Twins at least got a hearty steak out of the deal.

Winfield slumped during his lone season with the Indians, hitting just .191 with two homers in 46 games before calling it quits.

One of the biggest tragedies in my sunset collection is the fact that Topps didn't make a card of Winfield in 1996 with full career stats on the back.

Granted, I like his '95 Topps issue quite a bit, but it's not a true final tribute.

I should note that my Dave Winfield sunset collection isn't complete.

Then again, it's darn near impossible to track down everything of guys who played during the gluttony of baseball card brands in the mid-to-late '90s. I have the majority of Winfield's finales, however, and I feel that's enough to compose a halfway decent post on the matter.

I'm probably one of the few '96 Fleer fans you'll find. The quirky matte finish gives them a feel that's hard to find anywhere else.

That said, their send-off to Mr. Winfield wasn't anything special.

This card is the opposite.

I love the high-five shot, but I despise the stupid "mountain of gold" design.

A rare miss on Pinnacle's part.

Score put out a lot of vastly underrated sets in the mid '90s.

Their 1995 offering is probably one of my favorites from the decade (again, I'm probably one of the few), and '96 isn't far behind.

The packed crowd at Fenway makes for a beautiful backdrop on this terrific sunset card.

It's hard to describe how much I love the little "Tribute" banner that appeared in some of the final Collector's Choice checklists.

They didn't feel the need to make a big, ceremonious, LOOK AT THIS CARD!!!!! type of deal out of it. When you saw that little "Tribute" stamp, though, you knew you had something special.

Seeing cards like this one as a young collector may well have been the catalyst for my interest in the world of sunset cards.

If I ran Topps, one of my first orders of business would be to bring the Tribute stamps back.

All things considered, I think Upper Deck takes the honor of producing my favorite sunset card of Mr. Winfield.

I was a little hesitant to even consider it an "official" finale, given that the "Young at Heart" series was a subset in '96 UD. I don't consider inserts to be true sunset cards, but I'd never thought about subsets before tonight.

I'll give them the nod. They're part of the base checklist, and that's good enough for me.

These cards are a solid all-around effort from Upper Deck. Great design, great photos, great little timeline on opposite sides at the bottom, and, most importantly...

...great backs.

With complete career stats, no less.

The Padres photo/Indians listing used to play with my OCD a bit, but I've come to realize that Upper Deck wasn't just being lazy by not matching the two.

Their goal was to contrast a photo of Winfield as a bright-eyed young star with the grizzled veteran that appears on the front, and they accomplished just that with this magnificent design.

I don't know if Upper Deck ever experimented with the whole "hero number" theme. (Which might actually be a fun bit of research to do one day, now that I think of it.)

If they did, though, granting Dave Winfield the coveted #100 on this sunset card was an honorable move on their part.

Not surprisingly, Winfield made it into the Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year on the ballot. He was the first player to go into Cooperstown as a Padre, and his #31 is retired by San Diego.

I don't know that we'll ever see another player quite like Dave Winfield. I can't imagine another player getting drafted by four different professional sports teams in this day in age.



Matthew Scott said...

Winfield was a freak of nature.

Adam Kaningher said...

I can't think of Winfield without remembering the seagull incident.

I'm getting a shipment out to you tomorrow! Keep an eye on your mailbox.

Kevin Papoy said...

I mostly have his 92 cards, for obvious reasons, but amazing overall player

Julie Owens said...

The Upper Deck subset that year was gorgeous! I'm also a big fan of 96 Fleer. The classy matte finish hides fingerprints pretty well too. I came into baseball too late to enjoy Winfield's career. An astonishing player indeed!

Tony L. said...

I wish Winfield had retired with the Twins so his baseball career completed with a full circle of starting with the University of Minnesota and ending with the Twins.

But, if teams kept wanting to pay him, who am I to say he shouldn't take their money!

gcrl said...

you know i am also a fan of the 'tribute' and 'final tribute' banners. in fact, i've got a post coming up next week with some premature banners from the '96 collectors choice set.

as for winfield, he is still a big deal here in the twin cities.

Jeremya1um said...

I really like the 1996 Score set too. Winfield's 1996 Topps card is on one of my next checklists of custom cards to make.