When Dave Winfield was introduced to the fans in Yankee Stadium in the pre-game ceremony of the All-Star game he tipped his Padres cap and pulled out a Yankees cap.
Dave Winfield symbolizes everything that is wrong with a large portion of Padres fans. They have pride in the Padres until their real favorite team comes to town. It happens every year during the Cubs series and also during Interleague when the Red Sox and Yankees visit. San Diego transplants turn their back on the Padres and dress themselves in Cubs gear. "Oh I'm a Padres fan... except when my Cubbies are in town!"
Those fans have a new leader. Dave Winfield. I'm willing to guess the biggest regret of his life was choosing to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Padre instead of a Yankee. There seemed to be reasons for Winfield to enter as a Padre back then: he had a lasting feud with Steinbrenner, John Moores gave him money and a job, he would have been overshadowed by greater Yankees and he would become the Padres first Hall of Famer.
I have no doubt that he now regrets that decision. Being a Yankee Hall of Famer is so much more prestigious and nobody takes notice of him nationally as a Padre. He was a big fish in a small pond until Tony Gwynn entered the Hall. Now he's playing second or third fiddle.
Winfield chose to represent the Padres and he has failed. Every time he's been on national television he is introduced as a Yankee. He has appeared on "Pros vs. Joes", "The Moment of Truth" and now the All-Star game and each time he has been introduced as a Yankee with little or no mention of the Padres.
Say what you want about the Padres retiring Steve Garvey's number, but at least we know where Garvey stands. He has made no secret that he is a Dodger. He doesn't pretend to have allegiance fo the Padres.
I'd rather Tony Gwynn be our only Hall of Fame player, if Winfield is going to continually choose the Yankees when it benefits him. I'm sure it thrilled Yankees fans when you donned their cap, but did he think how it might feel to be a Padres fan when one of our two Hall of Famers would rather wear another teams cap?
It's hard to take pride in Winfield as a Padre because he doesn't seem to take pride in the Padres. If you want to be recognized as a Yankee I understand, you played many outstanding years for them, but I'd rather not see you choosing the Padres to fall back on.
I remember when Jerry Coleman was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Gwynn took a shot at Winfield by calling Coleman the first real Padres Hall of Famer.
"I always told him he should be the first real Padre to go in. . . . As my career was coming to an end, he used to tell me I had a Hall of Fame career. I said, 'You should be a Hall of Famer before me.' "
I agree with Gwynn, but I could accept Winfield if he'd just accept the Padres.
[Note by jbox, 07/16/08 2:06 PM PDT ]
This article explains why Dave Winfield chose the Padres cap over the Yankees, but it also gives us a little bit more of a clue about the way Winfield thinks about himself and his allegiance to teams. He's kind of like one of these people that prefers to think of himself as a citizen of the planet, rather than affiliated with a country.
''I didn't anticipate there'd be this much discussion or thought about the hat,'' he said. ''It caused me to be very introspective. It 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.
Why, then, a Padres cap?
''When I look at everything,'' said Winfield, whose plaque will be the first to have a Padres cap, ''it's kind of like, who gave me the first opportunity, where do I come from, where did 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 there; I was their first captain.''
Interesting that his number was never retired by the Yankees.
He won't be the 17th member of the Hall of Fame to wear a Yankees cap, but he is expected to become the 17th member of the Yankees to have his number retired.
Winfield said he hoped that his friends and his fans in New York would understand his decision.
''It was a tug of war on me for a long time,'' he said. ''I identify with the city. I lived there longer than any place and did more things in the community there. It's a real personal decision.''