Hall of Famer Dave Winfield made his major league debut on this date 40 years ago, two weeks to the day after he was selected fourth overall by the Padres in the 1973 amateur draft. He reached the bigs without spending a day in the minors, one of only 21 players since the draft began in 1965 who can make that claim. Unlike the majority of the others, Winfield was never demoted or even as much as played a rehab stint in the minor leagues.
Placed in the seventh spot in the lineup by manager Don Zimmer, Winfield made his first start in left field as opposed to the position he would come known to man, right field. His first opponent was the Houston Astros and their young lefty Jerry Reuss, who happened to be celebrating his twenty-fourth birthday.
Winfield came to bat for the first time with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the first inning, his Padres trailing 3-2. He grounded out to Houston shortstop Roger Metzger to end the threat. He grounded out to Metzger once again his second time up, stranding two more runners and ending the third inning. His third time up was no more successful, although he did switch it up by grounding out to second baseman Tommy Helms for the second out of the sixth inning.
Although hitless in his first three at bats, Winfield didn't let it get in his head and affect his defense. Helms led off the top of the eighth with a base hit to left. Winfield played the ball perfectly and cut Helms down trying to stretch it into a double. This was the first of 166 outfield assists he would record in his career.
With his first defensive highlight in the books, Winfield would get one more chance to show the home crowd of just 5,338 what he could do with a bat in his hands. Facing Reuss for a fourth time, Winfield led off the top of the ninth with a base hit. It would prove to be one of 3,110 he accrued in his 22-year career. He advanced to second on a single by Rich Morales, and then to third on a walk by pinch hitter Dwain Anderson. Houston manager Leo Durocher then summoned Jim York to relieve Reuss. York promptly surrendered a walk to Leron Lee to score Winfield for the first of 1,669 times.
Unfortunately, one milestone that evaded Winfield that day was his first win. San Diego fell 7-3 to Houston for their tenth loss in a row to fall to 20-46 on their way to a 102-loss season. Winfield was part of several losing teams in San Diego and then with the Yankees and Angels before earning a ring with the 1992 Blue Jays, who happened to be managed by Cito Gaston- the very same Cito Gaston who started in right field for Padres the day Winfield made his debut.