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Winfield Stands Alone in His Moment of Glory : Baseball: He becomes 19th player to reach 3,000 hits with ninth-inning single against Eckersley.

September 17, 1993|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — For two decades, Dave Winfield's combination of size, speed, power and grace has sent scouts scurrying in search of the next prototype ballplayer.

Thursday night, he again showed there's only one Winfield, becoming the 19th player to record 3,000 hits.

He singled in the ninth inning off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley in his fourth at-bat, driving in a run that helped send the Minnesota Twins into extra innings with the score 2-2. The Twins scored three runs in the 13th to win, 5-4.

In the seventh inning, his chopper off the plate put him within one hit of the milestone. No. 3,000 came two innings later off Eckersley, the dominant relief pitcher of this era.

Winfield fouled off a 1-and-2 pitch and then grounded a hard single past diving third baseman Craig Paquette. He pumped his right hand in the air, shook hands with first base coach Wayne Terwilliger and raised both arms amid a standing ovation from the crowd of 14,654.

"All this time I was thinking, when I get this hit I will get my teammates out there with me, but the game was so close nobody knew what to do," Winfield said. "They didn't want to disrupt the game. It was unusual to be out there myself and to bask in it."

Winfield turns 42 on Oct. 3. Only Cap Anson, 46 when he got his 3,000th, reached the milestone at an older age.

"It was a critical time and a base hit off Eckersley," Winfield said. "I couldn't ask for any better pitcher to get it off of, and I was able to score the tying run."

Last September, Robin Yount of Milwaukee and George Brett of Kansas City also reached 3,000.

It was Winfield's 10th career hit off Eckersley. Kelly Downs, on the mound for the infield hit, was the 681st pitcher to serve up a hit to Winfield.

"I feel the weight of the world is off me," said Winfield, who entered the game in an 18-for-110 slump. "This really feels good."

Winfield also ranks high in several other categories: ninth in at-bats (10,559) and games (2,840), 11th in total bases (5,044), 13th in RBIs (1,780), 15th in extra-base hits (1,053), 18th in homers (453), 25th in doubles (515), and 29th in runs (1,616).

"I never thought about numbers when I was drafted," said Winfield, addressing some 2,000 fans left in the Metrodome after the game. "I was drafted as a pitcher."

Winfield, who missed the entire 1989 season with a back injury, has played in 12 All-Star games. Now primarily a designated hitter, he also won seven Gold Gloves as an outfielder.

But his biggest triumph came last season when he helped Toronto win the World Series, proving he could perform in the clutch, too. His two-run double in the 11th inning of Game 6 gave him his first championship.

That capped an outstanding season in which Winfield became the first 40-year-old to drive in 100 runs.

"Last year was the greatest achievement I've had as part of a team," he said. "Tonight is the greatest achievement I've had as an individual."

In December, the native Minnesotan signed with the team he rooted for as a youngster, but he has had one of his worst offensive seasons--batting .262 with 21 homers and 70 RBIs. The team has been out of the AL West race for months, making Winfield's chase for 3,000 hits the main focus.

Despite several long slumps this season, Winfield has put up remarkable numbers since his 40th birthday. In 292 games, he has batted .278 with 47 homers and 180 RBIs.

Winfield is one of only five players with at least 3,000 hits and 450 home runs. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski and Stan Musial are the others. And of those four, only Aaron and Mays have matched Winfield's 200-plus stolen bases.

That versatility is what makes Winfield one of the greats in the eyes of Terwilliger, 68, who has been in major league baseball as player or coach since 1949.

"Everything he does, he does all-out," Terwilliger said. "He's hustled and been aggressive on the bases. And he's gotten a few hits. He's certainly one of the very best players I've ever seen. And because of his size, I can't come up with anybody like him in baseball history."

Winfield, 6 feet 6, played basketball and baseball at the University of Minnesota. He went right to the San Diego Padres, never playing in the minors. He got his first hit off Jerry Reuss in his debut, June 19, 1973.

After the 1980 season, he signed a then-landmark, 10-year, free-agent contract with the New York Yankees. But his relationship with George Steinbrenner broke down when the Yankees owner mocked Winfield as "Mr. May" (unlike Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October") after Winfield went one for 22 in the Yankees' six-game World Series loss to the Dodgers in 1981.

Aside from Brett, Yount and Pete Rose, every player who has 3,000 hits has reached the Hall of Fame.

Brett and Yount, who last season became the 17th and 18th players to reach the milestone, are still active. Rose, the all-time leader with 4,256 hits, was banned by former commissioner Fay Vincent for gambling.

But Winfield doesn't think too much about the Hall of Fame because he wants to play at least two more years. His guaranteed, no-trade contract with the Twins runs through next season.

The 3,000 Club

Player: Hits

1. Pete Rose: 4,256

2. Ty Cobb: 4,191

3. Hank Aaron: 3,771

4. Stan Musial: 3,630

5. Tris Speaker: 3,515

6. Honus Wagner: 3,430

7. Carl Yastrzemski: 3,419

8. Eddie Collins: 3,309

9. Willie Mays: 3,283

10. Nap Lajoie: 3,252

11. Paul Waner: 3,152

12. xGeorge Brett: 3,137

13. xRobin Yount: 3,132

14. Cap Anson: 3,081

15. Rod Carew: 3,053

16. Lou Brock 3,023

17. Al Kaline: 3,007

18. Roberto Clemente: 3,000

18. xDave Winfield: 3,000


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