Dave Winfield played 22 seasons over a Hall of Fame career with hundreds of teammates across the major leagues.
On Tuesday, at Play Ball Park inside the Denver Convention Center, Winfield spoke during a question-and-answer session when a young fan asked: Who was your best friend in baseball?
Winfield paused. He played for six teams — Padres, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians — throughout three decades (1973-95). But his answer is sure to delight longtime Colorado sports fans.
“Don Baylor,” Winfield said.
Baylor, the first manager in Rockies’ history, played 19 MLB seasons — including three years as teammates with Winfield in New York. The pair developed a strong bond as established stars later in their playing careers.
“We did charitable stuff,” Winfield said. “We were kind of on the same level and married.”
Baylor later managed the Rockies for six seasons. He guided the team to its first playoff appearance in 1995 and earned NL manager of the year honors. Baylor died of cancer in 2017.
“He was a solid citizen,” Winfield said.
Winfield told stories about his glory days in the Yankees’ outfield alongside Baylor and Ken Griffey Sr. In 1983, playing for the Blue Jays, Winfield said seagulls often landed on the field pregame while players warmed up.
It all added up to a practical joke gone wrong.
“I saw the bird, looked at Don Baylor, and I threw it that direction,” Winfield said. “I thought the bird would fly away. But it short-hopped, skipped, and bam: Feathers flew everywhere. It was gone. They took the bird off the field and people were booing me every time I got up in the game.”
The local police were waiting for Winfield when the game concluded.
“Someone filed a report: cruelty to animals,” Winfield said. “They took me down to the police station and they had Exhibit A on the table.”
Diversity initiative. On Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the league is committing up to $150 million to the Players Alliance to aid with diversity issues. Its goal is to make baseball more inclusive for everyone with American-born Black athletes accounting for less than 8% of MLB players.
Winfield discussed those ongoing efforts with fans at Play Ball Park.
“There are so many systemic, long-term things that are in place. It’s hard to break down to change,” Winfield said. “From people’s attitudes, for the ability to let somebody else in and try something different. I’m all for diversity and inclusion because you’re going to find good, smart people from all over.
“You’re going to hear more about what they call the Players Alliance. There are about 150 current and former, primarily players of color, that are working closely with baseball to make a lot of changes. … All I can say is I hope there are some changes so that there are opportunities for everybody. It’s a great game. How do we continue to make it better?”
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