Harold Reynolds had a recurring joke with former MLB commissioner Bud Selig. When Reynolds won the Roberto Clemente Award while playing for the Mariners in 1991, he originally received a bronze baseball. Cool, but not this.
After MLB switched to a Heisman Trophy-style depiction of Clemente for winners of the award a number of years later, Reynolds would bring up the discrepancy to Selig while announcing the winner every World Series.
“I’d say, ‘I need one of those Heismans! I need one of them!’ ” Reynolds said. “He’d be like, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’ Then one year he said, ‘I have a special announcement before we get started.’ He pulled out my own new Clemente Award with the Heisman look to it. So, that sits on my mantle now. It’s pretty cool.”
The excitement surrounding Roberto Clemente Day on Friday is hardly confined to trophies. When it comes to Reynolds, he has had the date circled on his calendar for a long time. That’s because he’ll appear live from PNC Park as part of MLB Tonight on MLB Network prior to the Pirates’ game against the Yankees.
Adnan Virk, Dan O’Dowd and Cameron Maybin will be back in Secaucus, N.J., while Reynolds will be on-site, rotating through various guests and discussing all things Clemente.
It’s actually the second consecutive year Reynolds has been around the Pirates on Roberto Clemente Day, as he co-hosted from Citi Field last year, as well. But being in Pittsburgh, which Reynolds called one of his favorite cities, will mean so much more on this special day.
“Man, it’s gonna be awesome,” Reynolds said, the excitement in his voice palpable. “First of all, to be a Clemente Award winner and know the family, then to come to Pittsburgh and do a show? It’s gonna be great.”
The on-site broadcast has fit with how MLB Tonight has adjusted its format this season, taking Reynolds to various ballparks and leveraging access with players and coaches. Although the Pirates are obviously out of the playoff race, it should afford the team some national shine.
“It’ll be great to see all the guys wearing the Clemente gear, the shoes and all that stuff,” Reynolds said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll get a lot of guests. It’s quite an honor to do it.”
Spending Roberto Clemente Day in Pittsburgh carries a special meaning for Reynolds, who credited Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr. for how well they’ve preserved and promoted their father’s legacy, as well as the work done by Thomas Brasuell, MLB’s former vice president of community affairs who’s now the president of the Roberto Clemente Foundation.
Reynolds considers the award to be on the same level as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and he’s not wrong. The Clemente Award brings out a neat, special side in players because it rewards the impact players had on others, not just statistics.
“It’s the biggest award in baseball,” Reynolds said.
It also produces a “special, exclusive” club, which includes Pirates legends Andrew McCutchen (2015) and Willie Stargell (1974). David Bednar is a two-time nominee with this year’s team.
The best example of that for Reynolds came last season, when MLB recognized a bunch of former winners in New York. One of them was Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield, someone Reynolds’ older brother Don played with in San Diego.
Harold Reynolds was amazed to learn about Winfield hosting a bunch of underprivileged kids at Padres games and also how importantly Winfield used his platform for good, deeds that led to Winfield winning the award in 1994 when he was with the Twins.
Reynolds remembered a conversation he had with Derek Jeter (2009 winner) about Winfield and how he got started with community outreach efforts.
“I asked him, ‘How’d you get started with this, Derek?’ He was like, ‘Dave Winfield was my guy when I watched the Yankees growing up. He had a foundation, and he did all this stuff,’” Reynolds said. “Dave had no idea of the impact he had on generations moving forward.
“If you look at all the things that I did in Seattle, all the things that Derek did in New York and all the stuff Winfield did in different places he played, how many thousands of people we were able to touch.”
That willingness to help others and celebrate players helping others is why Reynolds can’t wait to get to Pittsburgh and celebrate the Clemente name.
“That’s what’s cool about the exclusive group,” Reynolds said. “You get a chance to really talk to guys. It’s a very unique group of people. The accomplishment is second-to-none.”
Jason Mackey: email@example.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.
First Published September 14, 2023, 9:36am
As good as Dave Winfield was at the plate, one can only imagine what he would have done on the mound!
JUNE 17, 2023
It has been 50 years since pitcher Randy Jones and outfielder Dave Winfield became forever linked in Padres lore by the trade of left-hander Fred Norman to the Cincinnati Reds.
Jones was called to the majors to replace Norman in the Padres’ starting rotation. Most of the $150,000 that came from the Reds — along with outfielder Gene Locklear and pitcher Mike Johnson — was used to pay Winfield’s signing bonus.
It would be a no-brainer now, especially given the success of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
But a half century ago, a two-way player in the major leagues was never a consideration, not even for the penurious Padres.
Dave Winfield, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound two-way star, was more accomplished as a right-handed pitcher than a hitter when the Padres drafted him in 1973 out of the University of Minnesota.
He would become one of the most accomplished hitters in major league history. Never taking the mound in the majors may be the only regret of Winfield’s 22-year Hall of Fame career.
“Shohei Ohtani is doing today what I was doing back then,” Winfield said by phone this week. “The teams didn’t have the foresight or the vision or the inspiration then.”
It’s no wonder that when he arrived in San Diego, Winfield believed he could be a two-way player, telling The San Diego Union then: “I really think I could do either. But they think of me as an outfielder, so that’s what I’ll be.”
Winfield isn’t complaining about the decision.
“When I look back, first of all, I really appreciated the opportunity just to play there in San Diego,” Winfield said. “It was tough because we didn’t win a lot of games, but that’s who brought me to the dance, so to speak.”
It all began 50 years ago Monday — June 19, 1973 — when Winfield debuted against the Houston Astros at San Diego Stadium.
Dave Winfield’s debut
Date: June 19, 1973 (drafted in first round, fourth overall, of 1973 MLB Draft).
Opponent/site/result/crowd: Houston Astros, San Diego Stadium, 7-3 loss before 5,338.
Stat line: Went 1-for-4, with a run scored and an outfield assist (threw out Tommy Helms at second base).
Notable: First of 3,110 career hits was a single against Jerry Reuss leading off the ninth inning.
Quotable: “There was a lot I had to learn. It was a whole different stage. A whole different environment. All of the sudden I’m playing against people I read about or saw on TV or on a poster.” — Winfield
Padres highlights: Went straight to the majors out of the University of Minnesota. In 1977, made the first of four All-Star appearances for San Diego. He was named Padres team captain a year later. Best season was in 1979 when he batted .308 with 34 home runs and NL-leading 118 RBIs. He was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in 2000. The franchise retired his uniform No. 31 in 2001, the same year he was elected on the first ballot to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first player enshrined wearing a Padres cap.
Winfield had plenty of options. Also a starting forward on the Minnesota basketball team, Winfield was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the ABA’s Utah Stars. Winfield never played a down of college football, but the NFL came calling, too. The Minnesota Vikings drafted him as a potential tight end.
But his future was playing baseball — and not once every five days.
“We want him as an everyday player,” Bob Fontaine, the Padres’ player personnel director, said at the time. “With his ability to run and hit and throw, we think he would be more of an asset in the lineup every day.”
Before Winfield could sign with the Padres, there was the matter of leading Minnesota into the College World Series.
Winfield beat Oklahoma in one game, striking out 14 batters in a 1-0 win over the Sooners.
In the semifinals against USC, Winfield limited a Trojans lineup that included four future major leaguers — Fred Lynn, Roy Smalley, Steve Kemp and Rich Dauer — to one hit with 15 strikeouts through eight shutout innings.
He tired in the ninth inning, and coach Dick Siebert brought in a reliever with the Gophers leading 7-0. The Trojans rallied for an 8-7 win and went on to win their fourth straight national championship.
In addition to his pitching performance, Winfield batted .467 (7-for-15). He was selected Most Outstanding Player of the series, despite his team not making the final.
A week later, Winfield was standing in left field at San Diego Stadium.
“That was part of the negotiations,” Winfield said. “I had my options with basketball and football, and I said, ‘If I choose baseball, I have to go right to the major leagues.’
“They granted that wish. … I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I certainly didn’t want to go to the minor leagues.”
Only 24 players have gone straight to the majors during the draft era (since 1965).
Chicago White Sox left-hander Garrett Crochet, drafted out of Tennessee in 2020, is the only player to do it in the past decade.
In addition to Winfield, Texas Rangers pitcher David Clyde, a high school left-hander, and Minnesota Twins pitcher Eddie Bane, an Arizona State left-hander, also went straight to the majors out of the 1973 draft.
Winfield is the only one in the Straight-to-the-Majors club to reach the Hall of Fame.
His career began with little fanfare — or fan interest.
There were 5,338 witnesses to Winfield’s debut. The fan base was turned off more, no doubt, by the prospect of seeing a 19-46 team than it was turned on by the chance to get a glimpse of a future Hall of Famer.
On a pleasant evening in Mission Valley, Winfield played left field and batted seventh — between third baseman Dave Roberts and second baseman Rich Morales — in a 7-3 loss to the Astros.
Winfield went 1-for-4 against Houston left-hander Jerry Reuss. He was hitless in his first three at-bats, flying out to center field and grounding out twice, before reaching on an infield single to third base for the first of 3,110 career hits.
“I hit a smash,” Winfield said. “Doug Rader was a gold glove third baseman. He knocked it down, threw over to first. I remember running full speed and I saw the throw was off the base, a little high. Can you believe it, my first hit was a head-first slide.
“I didn’t know what it took to get a hit. There was a lot I had to learn. It was a whole different stage. A whole different environment. All of the sudden I’m playing against people I read about or saw on TV or on a poster.”
There is a San Diego connection to Winfield’s development as a hitter.
He was strictly a pitcher his first three seasons at Minnesota. That’s what he was listed as when he played two summers in the Alaska Baseball League.
San Diego State coach Jim Dietz coached the Goldpanners team Winfield played on in Alaska and penciled him into the lineup as a hitter as well.
Back in Minnesota for his senior season, Winfield says, “Coach, here are my stats,” after being 1972 MVP of the league in Alaska.
Siebert, the Gophers coach, finally let him pick up a bat. Winfield rewarded the decision by hitting nearly .400 and finishing second in the Big Ten in RBIs.
And off he went.
Winfield would become a fixture in right field for the Padres over seven seasons, developing into one of the National League’s most complete all-around players.
He thrilled fans with a big swing that produced long home runs, a strong arm that made runners think twice about going from first to third and long legs that made it seem like he could steal second base in three strides.
Winfield provided a power bat for the Padres, highlighted in 1979 when he hit 34 homers and had an NL-leading 118 RBIs.
Such statistics drew interest outside of San Diego, of course, and the Yankees signed Winfield to a record $23 million, 10-year free-agent contract following the 1980 season.
Winfield recorded a .283 batting average over his 22-year career, accumulating 3,110 hits, 465 home runs, 1,833 RBIs and 223 stolen bases. He was a 12-time All-Star who won seven Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers.
He was the 19th player in major league history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone — collecting the big hit in 1993 with his hometown Minnesota Twins.
Winfield was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001 — and the first player to come to Cooperstown wearing a Padres cap.
Contrary to common belief, Winfield said he was not compensated for choosing the Padres over the Yankees.
He was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame a year earlier, and his No. 31 is among six numbers retired by the franchise.
Winfield remains busy in baseball as special assistant to executive director Tony Clark of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
– The Major League Baseball Players Association has launched a campaign to unionize Minor League Players across the country. The historic effort kicked off Sunday night after receiving overwhelming support from the MLBPA’s Executive Board.
“Minor Leaguers represent our game’s future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said. “They’re an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.”
The campaign is supported by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has served as a voice and resource for players since 2020, bringing heightened attention to the substandard working conditions that exist throughout the Minor Leagues. Each member of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers staff has resigned to take on a new role working for the MLBPA.
“This generation of Minor League Players has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to address workplace issues with a collective voice,” said Harry Marino, outgoing Executive Director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers. “Joining with the most powerful union in professional sports assures that this voice is heard where it matters most – at the bargaining table.” “This organizing campaign is an investment in the future of our game and our Player fraternity,” Clark said.