New York Yankees: Problems for Dave Winfield Began With the 1981 World Series

Harold FriendChief Writer IJanuary 31, 2011

PITTSBURGH - JULY 09:  Dave Winfield of the National Team is introduced before the start of the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game against the American Team at PNC Park on July 9, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Dec. 15, 1980, George Steinbrenner, the erstwhile owner of the New York Yankees, thought that he had signed free-agent outfielder Dave Winfield to a 10-year contract for $16 million.

As unbelievable as it seems, Mr. Steinbrenner had misunderstood the contract. The pact, thanks to a cost of living clause, would be valued at $23 million.

It was the beginning of a tumultuous stay in New York for the future Hall of Famer.

The Yankees won the pennant in 1981 after a three-year drought. They faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The Yankees had beaten the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978 to become World Champions.

Winfield went hitless in the first two games at Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees won both.

The teams traveled to Los Angeles for the key third game. Winfield was again hitless as the Dodgers won their first game.

The fourth game was a disaster for Winfield, Reggie Jackson and the Yankees.

The Yankees scored twice in the first with Winfield contributing a walk. Leading off the third, Dave grounded out to second, but the Yankees scored two more runs that inning for a 4-0 lead.

Winfield hit into a fielder's choice in the fourth and flied out to left in the sixth.

In the Dodgers' half of the sixth, with the Yankees leading, 6-3, Jay Johnstone hit a two-run home run. Then came the key play of the game, and it didn't involve Winfield.

Davey Lopes hit a line drive to right field that Reggie misplayed, allowing the speedy Lopes to reach second as the potential tying run. Davey immediately stole third and scored on a Bill Russell single.

In the seventh, the Dodgers scored twice for an 8-6 lead. The game was over, although the Yankees managed one more run, without Winfield's help.

Dave flied out to center in the eighth, and Reggie's solo home run was too little too late.

Winfield was hitless in four at-bats, and although Reggie was 3-for-3, his defense, or lack of defense, affected the outcome more than his offense.

The next day, after going hitless in his first 15 at-bats in the series, Winfield managed a single to left off Dodgers starter Jerry Reuss. It was Winfield's only hit in the series. The Yankees lost, 2-1.

It rained in New York on Tuesday, Oct. 27, which simply postponed the inevitable. Los Angeles romped to an easy 9-2 win as Winfield went hitless in four at-bats.

Needless to say (but we'll still say it), Mr. Steinbrenner was far from pleased. He made his now-infamous remark, referring to Winfield as "Mr. May," which contrasted sharply to Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October."

Dave Winfield's first season in New York was disappointing in many ways, but for Dave, the difficult times on and off the field were just beginning.



References

Retrosheet

Baseball Library

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