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 tall.
"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 exact 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?