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'I Feel a Whole Lot Better Now'

Dave Winfield's 20-year baseball career, often touched by trouble and trauma, has taken a happy turn in Toronto


By Rick Reilly

Issue date: June 29, 1992

Sports Illustrated Flashback

Millionaires do not commonly celebrate their 37th birthdays by sleeping on the floor, but here he was, his designer sweater contorted this way and that, his eyes puffy, his cheek carpet-pocked, his hope running low. Here was David Mark Winfield, awakening for the third straight morning at the foot of his mother's bed, hoping to look up and find her still alive.

Cancer never has a benevolent sense of timing, and this was the worst kind of proof. Life was already bad enough for Winfield, what with George Steinbrenner trying to run him out of baseball, his ulcer hurting worse than ever and his charity foundation coming across in the papers like an underworld scam operation. On top of all that, he was trying to deal with a daughter he didn't know, a father he didn't want to know, lawyers in Texas trying to nail him for millions in a common-law marriage suit involving a woman he never even lived with and this Ruth Roper saying unspeakable things about him in the papers. . . . Still, those were pitches Winfield could handle. Now, though, on his birthday, Oct. 3, 1988, he was about to lose his mother, Arline, the only person he had ever really needed.

  Dave Winfield, right, realized a lifelong ambition of winning a World Series, which occurred in 1992 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. John Iacono
His feeling of loneliness was acute. He had felt these pangs before, years ago, back when he was 16. He had flown to Seattle to visit his father, who split from the family when David was three. The old man had sent him a free plane ticket -- Frank Winfield tossed bags for Western Airlines -- but David dreaded the trip. Why should he go? What did his father know about him? What did his father know about the evolution of him?

Where had his father been when David and his older brother, Stephen, used to rise to those numbing St. Paul snowstorms and get themselves ready for school all alone because their mother had long since gone to work? He could still see her, only 5 ft. 2 in., tromping out into the bitter cold, holding a stick to beat off the dogs on the way to the bus stop. Where had his father been then?

But David went to Seattle, and the first thing his father did was drag him off to a buddy's house and present him like a show dog and say, ''This is my son.'' David wasn't going to be some trophy kid. So thereafter, whenever the old man would mail him a free ticket, David would talk about going to Seattle but instead would fly off to San Francisco or L.A., all by himself, knowing nobody in either place. While most 16-year-olds were pondering the burning question Get Smart or Dick Van Dyke? Winfield was wandering down Lombard Street or Melrose Avenue, 2,000 miles from school, just for the experience of it, just for the seeing of it. All alone. He was living the lesson his mother had instilled in him from the beginning: Have a sense of self.

David had a grand plan: He was going to the big leagues, and he knew what kind of hitter he would be, what sort of fielder, what kind of interview, what sort of teammate. And when the boy became a man and the man became a major league star, he held to the plan. While his teammates on the San Diego Padres or the New York Yankees or the California Angels pondered the burning question Copenhagen or Skoal? Winfield would sit in the clubhouse and fill out Federal Express forms -- he actually kept the envelopes in his briefcase -- and conduct business right up to batting practice. ''Always wanted to live that 3- D life,'' he says, and he has never failed to do that.

At 15 he was more like 25, and at 25 he was more like 55. Business, art, music, charities, books. He could fill a reporter's notebook and say nothing that would become a baseball headline. He had a rich, smooth voice, like an all-night deejay for an FM jazz show, and he used it slowly and with reason. You could write Russian novels in the pauses Winfield left between questions and answers.

He thought himself a whole man. Not two weeks after the season, he would be in some exotic location -- would it be Nepal this year or Guinea? Kenya or Thailand? He can't remember the last time he stayed in one place for three weeks. Why stay in one place? If you sit still, you're not moving forward.

Winfield owned 17 Burger Kings before most guys have 17 phone numbers in their Rolodex. How about that? The guy drafted by Ray Kroc, Mr. McDonald's, ends up King of the Whoppers? The grand plan. The whole man.

But when the plan began to unravel, so did the man. And in 1986, when his mother found that stupid lump in her breast, it seemed that the center would no longer hold.

It is two hours before game time in the Toronto SkyDome, and Winfield's protege, Blue Jay rookie outfielder Derek Bell, has just hit seven of 17 batting practice pitches over the fence. On his next turn Bell is allotted only one swing. ''Watch this one,'' Bell whispers to a visitor. He jumps into the cage and smashes a ball onto the second deck, past a surprised security guard and into a previously virginal tunnel. Bell whoops and hollers.

''Hey, what time is it?'' shouts Winfield. Suddenly, all the Jays are hollering, ''Yo, what time is it?'' It's the standard baseball putdown for anybody who brags about a batting practice dinger. What time is it? Not even game time yet. Bell slinks away with a grin. ''He'll learn, he'll learn,'' says Winfield with a laugh.

It has been a long time since Winfield has been this happy. At age 40, he's batting cleanup -- and hitting better than .300 -- for the first-place Blue Jays. He likes the team. He likes the town. Things are good again for Dave Winfield.

So far in his baseball career Winfield has been through 19 seasons, 15 managers, 31 stadiums, two Griffeys, three Alomars, about 60,000 batting practice cuts, 2,600 games, 1,300 bats, 10,000 at bats, a few hundred thanks- for-stopping-by-the-booth travel alarm clocks, 12 All-Star teams, one National League team, three American League teams and an uncountable number of phenoms slated to fill his shoes. Drafted in three sports by five pro teams, he went straight into the major leagues without a single bus ride in the minors. He got a hit in each of his first six games as a major leaguer, but he did not make the Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team in 1973. Here's who did: Rich Coggins (retired, '76), Jerry Terrell ('80), Gary Thomasson ('80), Randy Jones ('82), Steve Rogers ('85), Davey Lopes ('86), Dan Driessen ('87), Johnny Grubb ('87), Gary Matthews ('87) and Bob Boone ('90). R.I.P.

Today Winfield's chin is stubbled gray, his midsection a little Michelined and his step throttled one notch down, but next to Michael Keaton's, his big, black bat is the most feared in the land. As of Sunday he was seventh in the American League in batting, with a .304 average, and had 11 homers and 37 RBIs. He has more career RBIs than Al Kaline, Rogers Hornsby, Willie McCovey or Willie Stargell had. He has more than 400 home runs, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he has hit them with a swing that cuts downward. ''If he had just a little rise in his swing path,'' says Gene Tenace, a Toronto coach and an old San Diego teammate, ''he'd have 600 home runs.''

Winfield has been around so long he can remember when kids came up to ask him for his autograph just to keep it. At 39 he became the oldest man to hit for the cycle. If he continues on his current wood-smoking pace, he will become the first 41-year-old to hit 30 home runs and the first player in his 40's to knock in 100 runs. He still has that royalty to him, that unmistakable grace and fluidity. He has won seven Gold Gloves. At an age when most guys take a commercial and a half to get from the fridge to the couch, Winfield still has a move from first to third that can bring tears to the eye of a track coach. Winfield tripping over a sprinkler head is still classier than 90% of the guys in the league on a home run trot. He leads all active players in home runs and RBIs, and every day, somewhere, somebody else is shrugging his shoulders and conceding that Winfield should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Naturally the least surprised to find Winfield on top is Winfield. Nobody is more aware of his remarkable talents than he is. He is the sort of man who thinks that if he had not been born, the world would want to know why. While Winfield was playing for San Diego, from 1973 through '80, somebody asked him about toiling year in and year out for a losing team. ''If the Padres go places, I will be a main reason,'' he said. ''But if they falter, I'll still shine.''

In responding to Al Campanis's infamous black buoyancy remark of 1987, Winfield said, ''I don't swim that well myself, but I look good at the beach.'' He is asked about his longevity, and he says, ''For the last few years people have seen me and acted surprised that I'm still playing. Still playing? I'm kicking butt.''

Much of America's current self-esteem crisis could be overcome just with Winfield's excess. Nobody knows better than Winfield that he is handsome, buffed, richly appointed with all the options, well read, well spoken and well paid. Nobody knows better than Winfield how appreciative he is of fine art, fine photography, fine jazz, fine clothes and fine design. He does not watch TV; he watches PBS. He does not read potboiler fiction; he reads serious biography. He does not buy paintings; he buys the art gallery.

He is not one to have friends over. Indeed, when you're this interesting, how much company do you need? He would rather stay home and do the impossible -- improve himself. That 3-D life. He subscribes to Business Week, Architectural Digest, Muscle and Fitness. He has Louis Rukeyser's Business Almanac on his nightstand. He has three homes: houses in California and New Jersey, an apartment in Toronto. He can whip up a nice veal piccata and select the perfect wine and just the right jazz to go with it. Vidal Sassoon is his good friend. On planes, while his teammates are pondering the burning issue hearts or gin rummy? Winfield is putting a highlight pen to In Search of Excellence.

Of course, all this can be a lot like living with a 6 ft. 6 in. Felix Unger. ''Dave Winfield thinks he is holier than thou,'' shortstop Ozzie Smith, who played with Winfield in San Diego, said in '81. ''He always acted as if it were his God-given right to tell other people how to do things.'' Maybe that attitude explains why he hasn't had many friends among his teammates and why he was famous for coming into the New York clubhouse after a loss and saying something like, ''Hey, I went three for four tonight. What else can I do?''

This supreme confidence seemingly can be traced to one source: Winfield's mother. After her husband left her with their two small sons, Arline was determined to raise boys who would not turn out like that; she would not raise boys who would leave. Because she was doing the job of two parents, she worked twice as hard with her sons. She would throw a new word at them every night at the supper table. They were required to have a new word for her in return. TV? Forget it. She would lug home one of those old projectors from her job as an audiovisual assistant for the St. Paul board of education and show the boys an educational film.

She demanded discipline of her sons and of herself. Later, when Winfield was rich, she would not allow him to buy her a car; he could only lend her the money. And she paid off every cent. Once, in Manhattan, David gave her $300 to go shopping. She came back with $298. When she would scold him, even when he was a man, his face got a look that nobody else had seen.

Nothing could come between Arline and her boys. Certainly not men, especially Frank. She had met Frank after the war. She was from St. Paul, and he was from Duluth and a buddy of her brother's. They began dating. Soon, all their friends were getting married. Soon, so were they, even though they weren't so sure it was the right idea. ''I liked her and all that,'' says Frank. ''But I didn't really, you know . . . well, she was pretty stubborn.''

They fought from just after the rice until just before the divorce, which happened when David was three. Arline rarely dated after that. There were only two men in her life, and at night they both had homework. ''Some women like to play the martyr role,'' says Frank, who now runs a successful maid-service business in San Diego. ''Arline wouldn't get attached to other men. That was her way of punishing me.''

Frank says that he often ''begged'' Arline to let the kids come visit him but that she rarely allowed it. The boys would go a year without seeing their father, and his name rarely came up unless he had missed a payment. ''They probably have the idea that I abandoned them,'' says Frank. ''I paid a lot of support, but, hey, times were tough back then.''

The family of three living on Carroll Avenue in St. Paul turned their row house into a fortress. They learned to rely on one another, to need nobody else. So attached was David to his mother that, when it came time to go to college, he enrolled at Minnesota so that he could live at home. (Even later, when the Reagans invited Winfield to the White House for a state dinner, he did not take his longtime girlfriend, Tonya. He took his mom.) David was the kind of boy who took his mother's elbow as she walked, the kind who revered her every step.

When Frank would call to talk to him, the line would grow icicles, so chilly was David's reception. Try as he might, Frank could not get back into that family. Finally, exasperated, Frank said to David, ''You'll be grown someday. You'll have kids. You'll have a relationship. We'll see how you work it out!''

Maybe it was some of that family anger that came out the night Winfield inserted his fist into the most infamous brawl in college basketball history. Besides starring in baseball as a freshman and sophomore at Minnesota, Winfield had been so dominating on his intramural basketball team, the Soulful Strutters, that basketball coach Bill Musselman invited him to try out for the varsity as a junior. Winfield made the team and was sitting on the bench during a game against Ohio State on Jan. 25, 1972.

And he came off that bench, he says, ''like I was spring-loaded,'' when a fight broke out, an ugly affair that matched Buckeye center Luke Witte's face against the feet of several Gopher players. Winfield found Ohio State reserve Mark Wager, who was already down, and punched him five times hard in the head and face. ''Hey, I'm not denying I was involved,'' Winfield says. ''There was a fight with my team. I was swinging.''

For this Winfield was not suspended but placed in the starting five. He played virtually every minute of every game for the rest of that season, and Minnesota went on to win the Big Ten title. The next spring Winfield, who pitched and played the outfield, led the Gophers to the Big Ten baseball championship. One can only imagine what the football coach was thinking.

Not to mention the pros. Here, dug up in St. Paul, was the rarest of finds -- a huge, fast, graceful athlete who could do most anything on the court or on the field and handle any interview after the game. The Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, the Utah Stars of the ABA, the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Padres of Major League Baseball all drafted him. (The Baltimore Orioles had selected him after his senior year in high school four years earlier.) But it was San Diego that signed him, for $15,000.

So Winfield left the row house on Carroll Avenue and tried life on his own. To the fans, and to the cameras, Winfield looked to be doing just fine: that engaging gap-toothed smile, the firm handshake, a dugout-side manner that was 10 years beyond his age. But inside that well-molded, well-mannered body was a 21-year-old still looking for nurturing, a kid who was secretly hunting for a father. Winfield found one in Los Angeles in the form of a rumpled and retired New York caterer, a two-pack-a-day, fast-talking, 5 ft. 4 in., 220-pound chunk of walking cholesterol named Al Frohman. In a life chock-full of mistakes, this would be Winfield's biggest.

Frohman was introduced to Winfield in the mid-1970s as a businessman willing to lend advice. ''You have any questions at all,'' Frohman told him, ''you just call,'' and Winfield did. An odder pair of friends you couldn't invent. Winfield was tall, sleek and gorgeous. Frohman, who was short and wrinkled, looked like 10 pounds of Malt-O-Meal stuffed into a five-pound bag. Frohman ate badly, blew his stack readily and had had his tact removed surgically. Everybody, or so it seemed, took an instant dislike to him, just to save time. Everybody, that is, except Winfield. ''He had this way of making David feel like he was the most important thing in his life,'' says Winfield's longtime friend Dorothy Bowen, who says she couldn't stand Frohman. ''And that made David feel good.''

Frohman even took to spying on Winfield's behalf. He would go up to players he happened to know, guys like Los Angeles Dodger catcher Steve Yeager, and say, ''So, this kid Winfield, how do you get a guy like that out?'' And guys like Yeager would say something like, ''Jam him early and then hit the corner.'' The next time around, Winfield would leave a few baseballs out in parking lot 3B.

Frohman also served as a financial consultant to Winfield. One time in 1977 Winfield was about to sign a deal with the Padres for about $25,000 less than Frohman had wanted. Frohman, says Winfield, snatched the pen out of his hand, broke it in half, and snarled at San Diego president Buzzie Bavasi, ''Pay the two dollars.''

Winfield would spend a week at a time in the off-season at Frohman's house in Encino, Calif., where Frohman would counsel him on everything from how to invest to whom to date to when to swing at a slider. When Winfield decided in 1980 to become a free agent, he let Frohman, who had no experience as a sports agent, represent him. When Winfield signed a 10-year, $23 million deal with the Yankees, Frohman took $3.5 million for himself, a tidy 15% chunk.

And Frohman had tricked Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, on the deal. Steinbrenner said he did not understand the cost-of-living escalator that Frohman had built into the contract, so Steinbrenner thought the deal would cost him only $16 million. When he realized he had agreed to pay Winfield an extra $7 million, secretaries hid under desks. To soften things up, Frohman then insulted Steinbrenner, telling the New York Daily News, ''If he ever touches a hair of my boy's head . . . I'll blow the lid. I've got stuff on George that if it ever came out, he would be in big trouble. It's very easy to be friends with George if you have blackmail on him.''

Steinbrenner's dislike of Frohman was intensified by the fact that Frohman had talked him into being his partner in a company called Top Hat, Inc., a baseball memorabilia business that went bust. ''This guy Frohman thought he was Jewish mafia,'' says an acquaintance. ''He thought New York was still 1950s tough-guy stuff. In reality, he had no contacts. He'd been out of the city for years.''

After less than a year of Winfield/Frohman, Steinbrenner was trying to bum rush them both out of the Big Apple. He started trashing Winfield in the papers, especially after Winfield led the Yankees into the 1981 World Series and then went 1 for 22. ''He's no Reggie,'' said Steinbrenner, and he was right. Though Winfield was thrice the gloveman Jackson was and hit for better average, Reggie had adorned Steinbrenner's hand with two World Series rings. Winfield -- ''Mr. May,'' Steinbrenner called him -- has not made it back to the Series.

By 1982 Steinbrenner was at war with Winfield. He stopped sending the agreed-upon $300,000-a-year donation to the David M. Winfield Foundation -- an organization that Winfield had set up in San Diego to help underprivileged kids -- despite three court orders to do so. He would call Winfield into long, stress-filled meetings with Roy Cohn, Steinbrenner's rabid lawyer, on the day of ball games. He struck such fear into the hearts of Yankee managers that they were reluctant to say anything complimentary about the best all-around player on the team. One year the Yankees didn't submit Winfield's name for the All-Star ballot.

''There is no way to fathom what was being done to me,'' Winfield says. ''It was immoral, improper and reprehensible. It was a battle for everything, your performance, your credibility. Do you know what it's like to have people fooling with your career?''

Meanwhile Frohman was ''helping'' Winfield in other ways, like signing him up for personal business with lawyers who never got around to mentioning their fees. When Winfield finally asked, they presented him with a tab for more than / $3 million. That's when Winfield hired a lawyer to protect him from his lawyers. Jeffrey Klein whittled the bill down to $35,000. Winfield finally fired Frohman -- albeit gently -- and made Klein his agent. ''Dave had blinders on when it came to Al,'' says Klein, ''the way one does toward a parent.'' Says Mario Casciano, program coordinator for the foundation, ''Al and Dave had a father-son thing going, but when the father does the kind of things Al did to Dave, I call it incest.''

Since its beginnings in 1977 the Winfield Foundation had focused its efforts on needy children. In one of its early programs the foundation united thousands of kids with San Diego area doctors for free physical exams. In a sport in which most stars consider it a supreme sacrifice to stay past the soup at a benefit dinner, Winfield was busy operating a large-scale antidrug foundation. ''Anybody who says that foundation was a fraud or some kind of tax-purpose thing is full of it,'' says Bowen. ''I can't tell you how many times I saw Dave reach into his back pocket to keep it going.''

Frohman continued to hang around Winfield and the foundation even after his ''agent'' role had been terminated. It was through Frohman that Winfield met the Babe Ruth of greaseball hangers-on, Howard Spira. Frohman let Spira volunteer for foundation programs; he even made Spira vice-president of Top Hat, Inc., and Spira had the business cards to prove it.

Spira, now serving a 30-month sentence for extortion, was a gambler in deep debt. In 1986 he went to Winfield and asked for money in exchange for information that would ruin Steinbrenner. No go. Then he went to Steinbrenner to ask for money in exchange for information that would ruin Winfield. Steinbrenner gave him $40,000, and Spira produced a 1981 canceled check from Winfield for $15,000, which he said Winfield gave to him to cover Spira's gambling debts. Winfield says he can't remember why he gave it to him and says that at the time he had no knowledge that Spira was a gambler. Casciano says Winfield wrote the check against what Winfield owed Frohman. ''If Spira didn't pay it back, it came off Frohman's ledger,'' says Casciano, who says Spira told him that himself.

However, Sports Illustrated reported in 1990 that four sources provided allegations of Winfield's and Frohman's gambling, allegations that Klein says are false. Friends of Winfield's defend him by saying he's far too frugal to be a betting man. ''David? Bet?'' says Bowen. ''Not David. I cleaned out his couch the week % he moved to New York. Do you know I never found a nickel or a dime in it? This man knows the value of a buck.'' Winfield says he has never bet, and baseball, which in 1989 conducted interviews regarding Winfield's off-field activities, has never punished him for gambling.

Winfield remained a friend to Frohman until the end. When Frohman died in 1987 of a stroke, Winfield gave the eulogy at his funeral. In gratitude, Frohman's widow, Barbara, sued Winfield, saying he had not paid the final installments on Frohman's contract. She lost. The court said that Winfield had already paid Frohman too much.

When Frohman died, Winfield crawled within himself and became guarded in his personal life. He continued to see Tonya, but she stayed in Los Angeles. He had a relationship with Mike Tyson's mother-in-law, Roper. He continued to support a Houston flight attendant named Sandra Renfro, who had had his child, Shanel, in 1982. (Renfro filed a common-law marriage suit against Winfield in 1985. A jury awarded Renfro a $1.6 million settlement in '89, but the judgment was thrown out on a technicality. Renfro's lawyer, Earle Lilly, says a new trial will probably begin this fall.)

Winfield's path had veered, the grand plan had gone awry. Still graceful on the field, he was graceless off it. Sleazy stories and 50-point headlines had become his constant companions. In 1985 Roper sued him for giving her a venereal disease. Winfield won't talk about Roper, and he has denied giving her the disease. The suit was settled out of court.

Then came a report in Newsday indicating that the foundation had spent about $6 for every $1 it gave away in 1986; the numbers, the story said, were released by lawyers for Steinbrenner. Winfield admitted that the overhead was excessive and blamed it on wasteful employees, employees he said he had fired before the numbers went public.

But many of the details smelled a little rank: a $46.40 bill charged to the foundation for balloons Winfield had sent to Shanel. (''The florist charged the wrong account,'' says Klein.) According to Sharon Roma, an independent auditor, the foundation has cleaned up its act. In 1991, says Roma, for every dollar the Winfield Foundation received in donations, only 25 cents went toward administrative costs. Still, tell that to your average Yankee fan. Years of sweat and goodwill -- more than 400,000 underprivileged kids have attended ball games, zoos and plays for free, thanks to the foundation -- all went down the 11 o'clock news drain.

The big, gap-toothed grin was gone. Winfield became paranoid about whom he posed with, what check he signed, what hand he shook. ''There are people out there who know who you are and exactly how much money you make,'' he has said. ''They know everything about you, and they have their plan.''

Yankee fans, predictably, began to distrust him. Could all of it -- the foundation stuff, Spira, the common-law marriage suit, Roper, the gambling allegations -- be somebody else's fault? Even the baseball got thrown into a fuzzy light. Let's see, sure, he was a great player, but had he ever really dented the game itself? One American League pennant, a black hole of a World Series appearance, no MVPs, no home run titles. Even his closest brush with history, his chase for the 1984 American League batting crown, had ended sourly. He lost it to Yankee teammate Don Mattingly on the final day and left the clubhouse without talking to the press.

Says Winfield now, ''Only I know how much better I could have been without all the distractions.''

Arline Winfield died at 9:30 p.m., almost 37 years to the hour since she had given birth to David.

The family had known for two years that she might die of the cancer, so Winfield had tried hastily to prepare for the day. After seven years of keeping Tonya a continent away, he decided to marry her in February of 1988. His father did not attend the wedding, but his mother was in the front row. He brought his mom to the 1988 All-Star Game, but she never got out of the Cincinnati Hyatt. She watched it on television with her private nurse.

He invited Shanel, the five-year-old daughter he hardly knew, to come to Minneapolis. He wanted her to know her grandmother before she became infirm. But Renfro wouldn't send her. Shanel did not even know that her father played major league baseball. She had been told he lived in Texas.

Finally, months later, two days before Arline's death, Shanel arrived. The awkwardness was awful. The warning Winfield's father had given him years ago rang in his ears. Someday you'll have kids. We'll see how you work it out! Shanel and Winfield were blood strangers.

The day before his mother died, Winfield says, he came upon Shanel in the kitchen, writing a note in crude crayon letters. The note read, ''Money Now.''

In 1990 and '91 Winfield played two successful seasons with the Angels. Last winter he signed as a free agent with Toronto. He is long rid of Steinbrenner, who was banned from the game because of his association with Spira, and Mr. May is still batting cleanup. He is thriving at 40 in a town that is just discovering him. You can see the gap in his teeth from Detroit.

Funny, but the path has made a circle. Across the clubhouse is teammate David Wells, who, as a kid in San Diego, saw his only big league baseball games thanks to Winfield's foundation. Toronto's manager is Cito Gaston, whom Winfield played with years ago on the Padres. The Jays have already nominated Winfield for the Clemente award, and last we checked, Winfield had enough votes to make it to the All-Star Game in, of all places, San Diego. And, given Toronto's firepower, there's a good chance that he'll finally get back to the World Series this fall.

''I've been thinking about this,'' Winfield says. ''If my career had ended (before Toronto), I wouldn't have been really happy with what baseball dealt me. I would have had no fulfillment, no sense of equity, no fairness. I feel a whole lot better now about the way things have turned out.''

Somebody once said the trouble with life is that you can only understand it backward, but that it has to be lived forward. You figure you have your path, outlined in red. You figure you don't much need anybody, and then, all of a sudden, the Minneapolis dawn wakes you up with a headache and a backache and heartache and your mother is dead, and you suddenly realize you need everybody. What she taught him was a dominating sense of self. What he had to learn was a sense of others. He started to learn exactly that.

It began with Frank coming to the funeral. The son noticed that. Then Tonya's mother began sending Frank letters about David and pictures of him, and kept hinting to David that it was not too late. ''You need to know your father,'' she would say. ''Things change.''

Slowly, unsurely, David began to reach out to his father. ''They're learning about each other,'' Tonya says. Maybe everything an angry mother says about an absent father isn't always quite true. He knows that now.

''We're getting there,'' says David.

Slowly, unsurely, his daughter started to reach out to him. Shanel came to Toronto for a week earlier this month. Imagine, at 40, suddenly having to learn to be a son and a father at the same time. Their reunion wasn't love at first sight, but it wasn't a disaster, either. ''She's intelligent,'' says Winfield, shoulders back. ''She's a little cutie.'' Shanel went to SkyDome, and it was the first time in her life she had seen her father play baseball; he hit a home run.

It's amazing, isn't it, what a guy can do with his life with just a little rise in his swing path?

Issue date: June 29, 1992


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