Photos and Story by Gordy Jones
Earlier this year, Twins catcher Joe Mauer and his wife, Maddie, announced they were due to have twins in late summer/early fall. Joe is not the only Twin to have twins. In 1994, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who at the time was playing for his hometown team, the Minnesota Twins, fathered twin babies with his wife, Tonya. Dave grew up a mile and a half from where Joe would grow up in St. Paul, and he played on many of the same ball fields 30 years before him.
And as many fans know, former pitching star Jack Morris and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor grew up in the same vicinity and played on the same fields as well. All four of their impressive careers brought them home to play for the Twins, the team they all rooted for as lads. Winfield and Molitor even shared the same coach and mentor growing up, Billy Peterson, for whom a diamond at Dunning Field, where all four of these guys have played, is named. Both Winfield and Molitor got their 3000th hit as Twins at the Dome, and Molitor, Winfield, and Morris went to the World Series with the Blue Jays. Hopefully Mauer and Morris will join Winfield and Molitor at the Hall of Fame someday.
When Dave Winfield played for the Yankees, it was always a major event when he came to town. There was much more than just baseball going on. Every minute of his time while he was here was well orchestrated. Many of Dave’s teammates hadn’t a clue how many events Mr. Winfield would pack into one day. While most ballplayers prefer to be under-the-radar and quite often low-key, Dave was always bigger than life. There would be radio and TV appearances, speeches at universities and hotels, hospital and school visits, motivational talks to bankers and stock brokerage firms, charitable events with his own Winfield Foundation, and most importantly time spent with his friends, family, his brother Steve, and his late mother, Arline, who he cherished.
Arline raised David and Stephen as a single mother; and taught them the finer values of life by example, and once in a while with a tap on the behind. She worked extremely hard so they would never be without, and I believe that is where Dave learned the virtues of hard work and integrity (brother Steve, too). Dave would often confide in his mom and seek her advice in making many “big time” decisions.
Arline sure would have been proud when Dave came back to St. Paul last week to give the commencement speech at Concordia University, just blocks from where they lived. While speaking there, Dave was also given an honorary degree to add to his collection, as he has been given several others throughout his baseball and speaking career. He also has a degree that he earned in political science while playing basketball and baseball at the University of Minnesota.
Dave is now a VP for the San Diego Padres, the first team he played for professionally – as he skipped the minors altogether. Dave has also worked for ESPN in Connecticut, and lives with his family in Bellaire, California. Dave is an entrepreneur, a businessman, and an excellent professional speaker. No wonder he hasn’t had too many opportunities to visit Minnesota lately.
I asked Dave how it felt to be back here. “It’s always good. It makes me feel good to know that my name and my contributions, and importance to the people and the city, are well known and intact. I was just speaking at the college to these young student-athletes, and they were really listening to the message, and they were glad to meet somebody who has succeeded at a high level from St. Paul, Minnesota.”
As we chatted, I told him that I thought, out of all of the great honors that have been bestowed on him, one of the coolest must have been when he came back home to play for the Minnesota Twins in front of his friends and family. “Oh yes…very much,” he said. Then he repeated, “Very much! There are certain things you do in life that stay with you forever, and this is the team I first rooted for, and I know the people in the organization are good people. You know, it’s a permanent connection there.”
Dave was one of the first to bridge a connection to the Negro League when he held special days to honor the league’s players in San Diego at a Padres game. That has now become commonplace in baseball. Dave even had some involvement with the movie, “42”, the story about Jackie Robinson. He did a lot of promoting for it and was at the Hollywood premiere.
I have been a friend of his, and a volunteer photographer for his foundation, dating back to the 1970s, and I’ve probably heard him speak at least 30 times. The virtues that he lives by and talks about, I try to emulate. I’ve condensed them to 10 points: Do everything with integrity. Be proud. Learn. Travel. Strive to succeed. Face your fears. Don’t look back. Give back. Practice time management. And finally, make the most of every moment.