Before he played for the New York Yankees, he played for the San Diego Padres, and that is why Dave Winfield has decided his plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown should depict him wearing the cap of the Padres. Earlier in 2001, when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Winfield would wish to be depicted with a Yankees cap for the upcoming induction in early August. After all, George Steinbrenner had his own way with Reggie Jackson eight years back and may have his way with Roger Clemens before too much more time goes by. He has an economic knack for this sort of thing, however, he made no attempt to buy the cap that will be shown on Winfield in his plaque.

"I had no idea when I was elected in January that I would have to think about it and look at this for so long, and from so many ways," Winfield said. "This has been an extremely tough decision." Steinbrenner met with Winfield for breakfast on the day after opening day, in which he had helped to raise the 2000 championship banner, but made no offer tobuy his representation, not that he could have bought Winfield off. "What people don't know probably is for some time we've had a pretty good mutual respect," Winfield stated from his home in the Los Angeles area. "He expressed his pleasure, his being happy for me. We didn't talk about the hat at all. We've had conversations about my entire career and personal matters. Things between us, too. We know we can look at each other with mutual respect. We've been able to go through everything that we've been through. When it's all said and done the people that know me well know I felt good to be able to speak to him like that. It has nothing to do with any previous history. That didn't affect my decision. I'm comfortable where we are."

Winfield played for six teams over his 22-year career, spending the first eight years in San Diego, followed by the next eight in New York. He was then traded to the California Angels in 1990 and from there moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays where he was instrumental in helping them win the 1992 World Series. He then joined his hometown Minnesota Twins with whom he reached the 3000th hit plateau in 1993 and finished with the Cleveland Indians in his final season in 1995. "I didn't anticipate there'd be this much discussion or thought about the hat, "Winfield advised. "It caused me to be very introspective and caused me to reach out and talk to a lot of people. The essence of this is I feel that I belong to all of baseball, more than just one city or one team. When my friend Kirby Puckett and I played together, he called me The Ambassador. He kidded me about it because everywhere we went there was a very good response by all of the people. He'd say, 'Winnie, you're something else.'"So, why did he choose to wear the San Diego Padres cap ? "When I look at everything, it's kind of like, who gave me the first opportunity, where do I come from, where do I emerge ? All this started a long time ago. They saw me, drafted me first, gave me a chance to play in the big leagues right away. I was an All-Star here. I was their first captain.Dave Winfield becomes the first member of the Padres to have his plaque depicted with their logo on the hat.

Special to CANADIAN BASEBALL NEWS - April 2001

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