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2001 Hall of Fame Inductions
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Dave Winfield, in his own words

During his 22-year Major League career, David Mark Winfield established himself as one of the finest all-around athletes to play the game. One of seven players in baseball history to reach both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, Winfield stared for four franchises. The former outfielder will be accorded his sport's highest honor when he is inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame this Sunday. He sat down with MLB.com's Sandy Burgin to discuss Winfield's decision to enter the Hall as a Padre, whether he is a prototype for future Hall of Famers and his place in baseball history.

  DAVE WINFIELD

Winfield made his presence felt >>
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MLB.com: You were born on Oct. 31, 1951, the day Bobby Thomson hit "The Shot Heard 'Round The World." When did you learn about that fact and your tie to baseball history?

Winfield: I learned about it early in my baseball career, but the coincidence didn't mean so much because I didn't know what kind of player I was going to be. I think in time that "The shot heard round the world" is known by more people, because it has become legend, it is passed down from father to son, there are even TV documentaries about it. I like that, and I know both guys (Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca). They are both gentlemen and they both handled it very well over the years.

MLB.com: Some people thought you might go into the Hall as a Yankee. What has been the reaction to your decision to go into the Hall wearing a San Diego Padres hat?

Winfield addresses the crowd after being inducted into the Padres' Hall of Fame on Aug. 19, 2000 in San Diego.

Winfield: I live in Los Angeles; I don't live in either city (San Diego or New York), but every city has been positive. People in New York, many people might have assumed (I would go in as a Yankee); many in San Diego hoped it would be (as a Padre). And some thought even Minnesota, perhaps. When I chose San Diego most people said that made sense. It's just positive because I'm going into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is a separate group. It's your achievements (in) the game of baseball. People just admire and acknowledge reaching this pinnacle of success.

MLB.com: Are you more the prototype for future Hall of Famers in that you played with distinction for a number (six) of different teams?

Winfield: Playing with more than one team will be part of the equation for future Hall of Famers. But when we speak of prototype, I may be a prototype from the standpoint of playing for different teams. But in reality I'm probably the tallest (6-foot-6) everyday player to go into the Hall. And I played the whole game (hitting for power, average, stealing bases, and playing great defense).

MLB.com: You lost the entire season of 1989 to back surgery. There were those who felt you already had achieved enough to get into the Hall at that point. What was your motivation to come back?

Winfield: There were two things. Motivation was the second part. The first part was I was coming off a year in which I batted .320, drove in 100 and scored 100, and I was at the top of my game. I didn't consider age, or think that I couldn't come back and continue to play very well. People were saying nobody at age 37 had ever come back after missing a whole year because of surgery and played well. The motivation was "Well, just watch."

MLB.com: You were the highest-paid player in 1981 when you signed a 10-year, $16 million contract that became $23 million with an escalation clause. Could you imagine then what players are making today?

Winfield: The game has changed tremendously in all aspects, not just in the amount of money that players are paid. The technology that's available, the learning tools for for players, the way they get in shape and stay in shape, the media coverage ... Just the way they view and observe and participate in baseball is much different.

I remember when there was no CNN or SportsCenter, where you can see every team, every day. We were on national TV when I was with the Padres, my first seven or eight years, maybe two or three times. So it was hard for people to know if they wanted to know who you were.

MLB.com: You've won a World Series title and collected 3,000 hits, yet you've been quoted as saying that "The Hall of Fame is a larger cut above that." Can you elaborate on that?

Winfield singles to left for his 3,000th hit against the A's on Sept. 17, 1993 in Minneapolis.

Winfield: There are people who have won championships who aren't in the Hall of Fame. Everybody who has gotten 3,000 hits is in the Hall of Fame. But I can tell you there have been some fabulous baseball players who have come down the pike, and only a small percentage of them make it to this group. There are a multitude of reasons people don't make it to the Hall of Fame -- injury, death, you're traded to the wrong team, the wrong organization. Over 16,000 ballplayers have played (Major League Baseball) and (fewer than) 200 have been elected to the Hall of Fame. I saw so many great players -- played with and against them. They might have (made) the All-Star team; they might have won a World Series, done fantastic feats. But it has to do with longevity, consistency -- those are two major things. It's always "What have you done for me lately?" You have to do that day after day, month after month, year after year. It's a grind.

MLB.com: What do you think is your lasting legacy?

Winfield: People look at me a lot of different ways. It's hard for me to say what people think. But I could play the game. Some may just read a book or look at the statistics, but some who saw me play would remember is the guy -- a big, tall guy -- who played the game hard every day, who had those long strides going first to third, who had an arm and could throw people out when they tried to advance to another base. They would remember me as champion helping Toronto to its first ever title. There are a lot of ways. Some guys have that one moment, the picture in time. I don't know if you could say there is just one thing. People may look at my career as a body of work.

MLB.com: You turned down an Orioles contract out of high school in order to pursue a college education at the University of Minnesota. How important has that decision been in your life?

Winfield: It was very important. I grew up in college. I learned a lot. It's just one of those life-altering experiences. It was for me. Some people may want to go play ball (in the pros) right away, but the education was important. Had I made it to the big leagues from high school I would have been a pitcher, so they would have seen Dave Winfield like a J.R. Richards or a Roger Clemens rushing it up there, bringing it. That's how they might have seen me.

MLB.com: You've been involved in a lot of different enterprises during and after your playing career. Can you talk about them?

Winfield: I've been a Burger King franchisee and learned that from Ray Kroc(McDonald's founder and former Padres owner), I've been a photographer and traveled the world -- China, Africa, Europe, Alaska.

The thing that you'll hear about now is a company called Professional Athletes Systems and a service "The Call of Fame." It's an athlete hotline or a pay-per-call service (that allows) the fans to speak to their favorite former Major League Baseball players. We started this just a few months ago, and the players are truly excited about it. And the fans who have heard about it really like it. We're working very hard to make it happen. I think it will be a win-win for all baseball fans and corporations that love baseball, and certainly for the athletes themselves. Fans can go on the website www.calloffame.com or call our 800 number 1-800-670-2291 for more information.

MLB.com: You began your career in the laid-back atmosphere of San Diego, went on to the pressure cooker of New York City, played in relaxed Anaheim and finished your career in middle America, where you grew up. Which area did you prefer, and how did each effect your career?

Winfield: All of the cities had something great to offer, and every one of them shaped me and contributed to my career. And I'm really glad to have played at every place. Guys like Kirby Puckett and Bill Mazeroski (fellow inductees), they played in one city and that's great because you can settle down in that city and they know you and you helped change the franchise forever.

I think I made serious contributions every place I've played, on the field and off the field. And I benefited because I played in both leagues, I played in both countries and I was just very good. That means that many more people know me or identify with me. I'm part of their organization's history forever. I'm always a Padre, I'm always a Twin, I'm always a Yankee. But the positive part of it is it let San Diego feel really good. It's kind of a reward for them having selected me first and for giving me that opportunity.

Sandy Burgin is the site reporter for padres.com.