Of course, all this can be a lot like living with a 6'6" 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."