Hall of Famer Dave Winfield on manly manicures, accidentally killing a seagull, and making a difference on behalf of his mom. (Oh, and the All-Star game, too.)
We wouldn't normally forgive a man for playing for the Yankees, but Dave Winfield managed to consistently annoy George Steinbrenner. (And anyone who annoys Steinbrenner is a good man in our book.) With the All-Star Game only a few days away, Winfield -- who is now an analyst for ESPN's Baseball Tonight program -- sat down with The Good Men Project Magazine to talk about baseball, manhood, and fighting breast cancer.
Hear the audio version: Man2ManWithDaveWinfield
TOM: I have to be honest. I'm literally in the shadows of Fenway Park.
TOM: Yeah, when there's a game, I have to keep people out of my driveway because they want to park there and walk over to Fenway. So, sorry to say I'm not a Yankee fan. What can I do?
DAVE: It's all right. I probably hit a couple balls in your backyard. (Laughs.)
TOM: (Laughs) I know that there's a special story about your last All-Star game--the last of your twelve All-Star games--and your mom. Can you tell me about that?
DAVE: Well, she had breast cancer at the time, 1988. And the last trip she took was to my All-Star game in Cincinnati. She only lasted a few months after that, but it was a happy time for her. It was a difficult time, but it was a good time.
TOM: How did you play in the game?
DAVE: I got a hit, like I usually do. (Laughs.) But we had a lot of family that was gathered around. My mother was in a wheelchair by then, but we took her out to a couple of the gatherings. And I had a lot of different emotions at the time.
TOM: So, what have you been doing with breast cancer since then?
DAVE: Well, I was contacted by Ask.com and Susan G. Komen earlier this year. They asked me to be a spokesperson, and now we have the website (www.ask.com/forthecure) that reaches millions of people. You go there, you can ask any question you want. If you click on the baseball icon, money's donated to the cause. And I think that with my visibility--being an analyst for ESPN, being an executive in Major League Baseball, just being who I am--we've been able to make a big difference. This is the second leg of a campaign we're going to conduct this entire baseball season, and I think we're making a difference. So I appreciate just being able to talk about it.
TOM: As you may know, our whole foundation is about being a good man, and certainly you're being a good man by stepping up on breast cancer as an issue. It's something that has affected millions of women and something we've got to keep working on.
DAVE: I try to be a good man in a lot of different ways, and this is one of them.
TOM: So how does the All-Star game look this year? Who are you high on?
DAVE: I hate to give the kudos to the American League all the time. I think the National League might pull it out because they've got exceptional pitching, and I think that pitching might save the day. They've been beaten down so much recently, it's about time they won one.
TOM: How do you feel about my Red Sox? I feel like we're the third best team in the American League East and the third best team in baseball right now.
DAVE: Truly, even as an analyst, I'm surprised that they're in the position they are. They could be so much further back, but it demonstrates they've got a lot of heart and a lot of soul. Lester's been down. You've got Pedroia down. Big Papi, early on, was down. You've got Matsuzaka, who is iffy. You'll only be five games back now? They're doing exceptional.
TOM: I will tell you, I go to a lot of games and watching Dice-K pitch is like watching paint dry. It's the slowest thing on the face of the planet.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah. A lot of people don't like to see that. He's a good pitcher, but they get tired.
TOM: Well, he's a very good pitcher with the bases loaded. (Laughs.)
DAVE: Yeah. (Laughs.)
TOM: We have a pretty big fan base ourselves, and I put out that I was going to be talking to you, and a bunch of readers wanted me to ask you questions. I got a couple of funny ones that I wanted to throw your way. One is from Karen. Her granddad and uncle were both glove designers at Rawlings for years, and she wanted to know what your favorite glove was.
DAVE: Aw, man.
TOM: Did you have a favorite glove? I guess that's the question.
DAVE: Man, I haven't been asked that in a long time. I can't recall, but an outfielder's glove, where it's got a web where you can see through it. It's not like an infielder's glove, where you can't see through the webbing.
TOM: So it was a big basket? What color glove did you use?
DAVE: It varied, but pretty much natural cowhide color. I did have a black glove at one point, but usually the natural color. And then after time, with all the things that players put on their glove, it changes colors a little bit. (Laughs.)
TOM: All right, I've got another. This actually is from my high school buddy John Eddy. And he wanted to know about a certain seagull that met an untimely death in Toronto--
DAVE: Aw, yeah.
TOM: --and your subsequent arrest and Billy Martin's outrage because, as he put it, it was "the first time Winfield hit the cutoff man all season." The question is, did you or did you not have a memorial service for the bird at Yankee Stadium as a debt to society?
DAVE: No, no, no.
TOM: No memorial service?
DAVE: No. If it happened in New York, they'd have thrown the bird over the fence and said, "Let's get on with the game," but someone filed a complaint and claimed cruelty to animals because I accidentally hit this bird on the field and killed it. And so they took me down to the police station after the game and delayed our flight out of the country, and they had Exhibit A on the table. What was I going to do? They had to bail me out. Overall, people laugh about it after the fact. But you know what I did? I went up to Toronto off-season. They had a fundraiser. I had an art gallery. A guy painted a picture, we auctioned the painting and some of the money went to the Natural Resources of Canada, and the people were very happy with me. And then years later, I ended up playing for the Blue Jays, and we won it all. So I'm one of the favorites up there.
TOM: All right. I'll give that one to you. So we have a bunch of questions that we ask all kinds of guys from all walks of life. I've changed them around a little bit, but let me run through them for you.
DAVE: All right.
TOM: Who in your life taught you about manhood?
DAVE: There's not one person or one teacher. Times were different in the '50s and the '60s when I was coming up. My parents were divorced, so my father wasn't there. I had to learn it from friends or girlfriends. There wasn't that much reading material, and they didn't have classes on it. So I learned it kind of naturally out there in the world.
TOM: Where'd you grow up?
DAVE: Saint Paul, Minnesota.
TOM: How did romantic love shape you as a man--a young man?
DAVE: Well, I think that sex is one thing, but you find out in life you want to find someone that you can love and have a good life with, and a good family. So romantic love has played a big part of it. I've found someone where I had that connection, and I've been married twenty-two years, and I have a few kids, and so I'm fortunate. I've found a person that I can have all those things with--the romantic love and the family and someone that wants to go on that journey with me.
TOM: You were talking about your mom before. What two words would you use to describe your mom?
DAVE: Honest and reliable.
TOM: And how do you think you're most unlike her?
DAVE: I'm tall.
DAVE: (Laughs.) Yeah. She was only 5-foot-2-and-a-half. But I would say that, truly, in life, I stretched out a little more than her, being able to do things and travel, and took more risks in life, because she had to make sure she took care of her two boys. So she had to be very conservative and protective and couldn't rock the boat or try to be too creative.
TOM: From which of your mistakes did you learn the most?
DAVE: I'd say having a child before I was married or ready to have kids.
TOM: How old were you?
DAVE: I think 29. It sounds good, but I wasn't married. I didn't get married until I was 36. So I think you've just got to be careful. Seems like everybody does it backwards now. They have the kids and they say, "Well, we'll see if we can get along and just live together."
TOM: I've got two kids by a first marriage, and then I have a third kid by a second marriage. And it all worked out great in the end, but like you, I wish I had done it differently.
DAVE: Yeah. But that's what I would say. I would tell people, "Try to find the right person and then get married and then have your kids, in that order."
TOM: What word would the women in your life now use to describe you, and do you think it's true?
DAVE: I think they'd say, "He's a good man. He's masculine. He's strong. A leader." So I don't think there's one word, but I think it's probably a combination of those things. And is it accurate? Yeah. (Laughs.)
TOM: Good. Who is the best man you know, and what does he do to earn that distinction?
DAVE: There's a gentleman named Robert Turner, Jr. He's actually my father-in-law. The words I would use to describe him are consistent, distinguished, family man, God-fearing, head of the household of a really good family. And he's a role model. And I'd say a good American. He served in the military. He was head of his union for the guys that drove the trains, when they had the first African-American union. He's done a lot.
TOM: That's great.
DAVE: So he's well-respected and I'm glad I could mention a person like that.
TOM: Do you suppose you've been more successful in your public or your private life?
DAVE: I thought about it, and I'd say about equal.
DAVE: It's about equal, because I had a big-time public life, but behind the scenes, the relationship with my wife and my family is, I know, better than most.
TOM: When's the last time you cried?
DAVE: You might shed a tear at one of these tear-jerking movies, and you (laughs) dry your eye real quick and hope no one saw you. But with a real boohoo was when my friend Kirby Puckett passed away unexpectedly. He was coming to visit and play golf and get together. He was a great guy. When I heard he had a stroke and passed away...
TOM: What do you miss about Kirby?
DAVE: He's just one of the best human beings that people would know. He was a lot of fun, he was a friend to so many people. And besides being teammates and all that, we were fishing buddies. Good guy.
TOM: What advice would you give teenage boys about what it means to be a good man?
DAVE: Well, it's not all about the opposite sex. I take pride in men being leaders in leadership positions. You can accomplish anything. But I would say, certainly enjoy the company of ladies, but communicate with them and find the common ground. I think building respect is a part of being a good man, just gaining the respect of men and women and your community. And part of that is about giving, being consistent, having some values, and these are all important parts of being a good man.
TOM: What do you like to do as a guy? What's a guy thing you like to do? Besides play baseball?
DAVE: The most cherished ritual? I think two things are important. I think when we take our kids to church, and people see that part of the community sees your family together, they're learning important things about how to deal with life. And number two is working out in the gym, going to get my workout in and a subsequent steam and a massage.
TOM: That was beautiful. I'm with you on that.
DAVE: But here's one more. And a lot of guys don't do it. Go and get yourself a manicure or pedicure, like the girls do. Don't let them have all the fun.
DAVE: I enjoy that.
TOM: All right, I got one last question. I've become very friendly with Dave Cowens, the Hall of Fame basketball player.
DAVE: Yes. I know Dave.
TOM: So he was emailing me last night and he's like, "Make sure you ask Winfield why it was he didn't become a basketball player."
TOM: Because you were a multi-sport athlete coming up, right?
DAVE: Yeah. But the thing is, when I came up, baseball was the number-one sport in America, and that's what I played from the beginning. I played the other sports, but when I was 12 you could ask me, "What do you want to do?" I'd say, "Professional baseball." And people even doubted that that was possible. But that was my dream from being a young kid.
TOM: So when you were a young kid, who did you idolize at that time?
DAVE: Well, the guys that I could see in person were the Minnesota Twins. There were guys like Harmon Killebrew, and there was a guy that you know, Zoilo Versalles, and even Rod Carew as he was coming up. Those guys I saw. But from a long distance? Man, you tell me about Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Bob Gibson---those are the guys. Got a chance to play against all of them, too.
TOM: Well, Cowens still thinks you should've been a basketball player.
DAVE: Yeah, I know. But I'd have had to be banging around with guys like him, man, and he's a little bit bigger than me.
DAVE: I made the right choice.