Baseball

Yankees honour hall-of-famer Winfield

On the day the New York Yankees honoured him, Dave Winfield limited his speech to four minutes, a stark contrast to his lengthy remarks at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier this month.

"Hopefully, you'll keep your speech short today," fellow Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Winfield's former manager, said in a videotaped message played on the scoreboard Saturday.

Owner George Steinbrenner, who dubbed Winfield "Mr. May" for his lack of clutch hitting in late and post-season games, put their past differences aside to schedule Dave Winfield Day, but didn't attend.

Yankee Stadium was about half full, with many in the sellout crowd of 55,294 arriving later for the Yankees' 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Winfield later got a standing ovation when he came back to the field for the ceremonial first pitch. His old uniform number, 31, was painted near each foul line.

"I'm going to keep my remarks short and sweet," said Winfield, whose speech at Cooperstown was twice as long as those of Bill Mazeroski and Kirby Puckett combined.

Former teammate Don Mattingly, who beat out Winfield for the 1984 AL batting title on the final day of the season, presented the 12-time all-star with the keys to a new car.

A proclamation from New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was read, citing Winfield for "soaring hits driven deep into Yankee Stadium's Death Valley, to baserunners gunned downed at home plate after daring to test his arm."

Winfield, who played for New York from 1981-90, became the first Yankee since Joe DiMaggio to drive in 100 or more runs in five consecutive seasons. But many Yankees fans remember him more for his 1-for-22, one-RBI performance against Los Angeles in the 1981 World Series, the only post-season appearance New York made during his decade with the team.

"This is going to be a day that's going to live with me for a long time," Winfield told the crowd as his kids played with their gift pogo sticks. "Dave Winfield Day at Yankee Stadium -- it sounds good and it feels right. . . . This is a day we thought we might not see, but it's here and it's beautiful."

Winfield, the first Hall of Famer to play for six teams, joined the Padres in 1973 and spent his first eight major league seasons with San Diego. After the Yankees traded him to the California Angels in 1990, he went on the play for Toronto, Minnesota and Cleveland finishing with 3,110 hits (16th on the career list) and 465 homers (21st).

Winfield chose to enter the Hall of Fame in a Padres' cap, even though his longest tenure was with the Yankees.

"I knew when I put on these pinstripes for the first time, it's a moment I'll never forget, and it's a moment that changed my life," Winfield said. "I put my heart and soul on this field every day. I'm truly proud to be remembered as a member of the Yankee family."

Winfield wasn't surprised that his number wasn't retired.

"I had a little idea. Glenallen Hill had that number here early this year," he said. "Maybe they will. We'll see."

By Ronald Blum

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