Turns out - this card rocks no matter which collection it rests within, as did the career it honors the start of!
|Yep. It's a bright one, Dave.|
Winfield's rookie card is from the 1974 Topps set. As a kid in the late 80's, I often confused the '74 design with the '80 design - both of which I still enjoy to this day (though I don't own very many of.....yet). The dual banner, symmetrical look is very basic but its simplicity plays to my inner engineer. The team, position and name labels frame out a cameo shot of Winfield looking very optimistic about his future.
This particular card is in great shape for my liking. There's no creasing on the front and the coloring is fantastic so the overall presentation is really nice. Browns and yellows are usually not ideal, but the retro goodness of the old-time Padres uniform is simply undeniable. Throw in the 'ol Winfield moustache and early 70's stadium upper deck background for good measure and you have the makings of a most excellent rookie card.
The edges and corners are not perfect - but the price was right, so I was ecstatic to add another HOF rookie card to the collection. Here's a look at the back:
Ah, there's a tiny crease up there in the upper right hand corner. No worries, as my usual point of contention starts when I can no longer read a portion of the card - which is certainly not the case here. You get a nice look at Mr. Winfield's signature up top with the usual biometrics and even a noteworthy cartoon along the right side - turns out that Winfield was born on the same day as "the shot heard 'round the world", a.k.a. Bobby Thompson's home run. Very poetic that big Dave would be destined for his own post-season legend more than 40 years later! But more on that later. The four college career highlights at the University of Minnesota are given in bullet point format. A lot of good information and interesting tidbits squeezed onto this cardboard. I dig that.
This card portrays Winfield as a proud young phenom for the San Diego Padres. The Padres drafted Mr. Winfield as a Pitcher and was the 4th overall pick of that draft. Of course, Dave was also drafted by THREE other teams in TWO other sports (basketball and football). Keep in mind, Dave Winfield didn't even PLAY college football at UM!
|Hear it comes!|
That should give you an idea as to how incredibly gifted this guy was as an athlete. The Padres quickly dropped their young star into the deep end of the major league pool - where he immediately shined. Needing his bat more than an additional hurler, they placed Winfield in the outfield where he still utilized his rifle arm to produce many memorable defensive plays. He batted .277 in the 56 games he played in '73 and only seemed to improve as his career marched forward.
|That Uniform = Awesome|
He would go on to hit the national scene during the '77 All Star Game in New York and became the Padres Captain in '78 before posting .308 AVG / 34 HRs / 118 RBI in '79. Winfield landed in New York as a free agent in 1981 where he would be a constant offensive leader until he left in 1990. Often at odds with Steinbrenner (which probably began when the Boss signed Winfield for $7M more than he thought he did - making him the HIGHEST paid MLB player), Winfield never allowed the off-field Bronx drama affect his performance between the lines. He would be an All-Star for eight years in a row ('81 - '88) and win five gold gloves in New York to go along with his five silver slugger awards. He lost a VERY narrow batting title race to teammate Don Mattingly in 1984 by .003, finishing at .340. Interestingly, Yankees fans were divided in their loyalty to both sluggers, with a noticeable tilt in favor of Donnie Baseball. Winfield handled this fact like a professional, citing an eerily similar situation endured by Mantle and Maris during the home run race of '61. The Yanks, despite having two sluggers in the line-up at .340 or better, still finished 17.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers that season. Yikes?!
During Steinbrenner's two year stretch of being banned from managing the club's operations, Winfield was finally traded to the Angels in 1990 where he stayed only briefly before having his second career renaissance as a soon-to-be world champion for the Toronto Blue Jays. Even as an aging star, Winfield served as a very powerful designated hitter. What am I saying?! Big Dave slugged with a .290 average and slammed 26 home runs along with 108 RBI. He wasn't done yet, no sir! Winfield helped to lead the team into October where he provided the clutch 2-run scoring double for the Jays in the 11th inning of Game 6 that helped to clinch the '92 Series for Toronto. Unfortunately, this victory was over my Atlanta Braves, but it was truly something to behold as Winfield officially shrugged off those tired old and fictitious "Mr. May" labels from Steinbrenner during his pinstripe days and became the oldest player (41) to slug an extra base hit in the World Series. No matter how you slice it - that's good stuff and Winfield now had the hardware to go along with his championship-worthy career!
|Destiny - Worth the Wait!|
Winfield would go on to collect his 3,000th hit off of Dennis Eckersley as a Twin in 1993, thereby cementing his enshrinement in Cooperstown. Playing his final game as a professional in 1995 as a Cleveland Indian, Dave Winfield completed an amazing career that spanned thirteen years and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He remains a very active part of the game today in a return to his roots as the executive Vice President and Senior Advisor for the San Diego Padres, who also retired his #31 in 2001. He is also very active and performs much great work through his foundation, The Winfield Foundation - and can also often be seen as a guest analyst on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.
|Power for Good.|
Atta boy, Big Dave! Thanks for the memories and your contributions to the game of baseball (even the ones that might have occurred outside of your time as one of my beloved Yanks). You're definitely one of my favorites and while I haven't been lucky enough to meet you or get your autograph yet, I'm honored to have your rookie card in my collection!
Thanks for reading.