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Stark: Another big-time dramatic moment for Mazeroski

Notebook: Pete Rose sighting in Cooperstown

Winfield, Puckett, Maz officially enter Hall of Fame

Caple: Puck all about class

Klapisch: Winfield remembers good and bad times

Maz's shot and other great home runs


Cooperstown's Class of 2001
The 2001 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Game footage courtesy of
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Class of 2001
Dave Winfield recalls the day he chose to play baseball.
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Class of 2001
Kirby Puckett has a message for his dearly-departed mother.
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Class of 2001
Bill Mazeroski is proud to be going into the Hall for his defensive ability.
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Monday, August 6, 2001
Detente? Winfield gives thanks to the Boss
By Jayson Stark

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- As great, lifelong pals go, Dave Winfield and George M. Steinbrenner may never be confused with Lemmon and Matthau, Kramden and Norton or Seinfeld and Costanza.

Dave Winfield
Dave Winfield had 3,110 hits and 465 home runs in his Hall of Fame career.
But at least they've forged enough of a peace pact that Winfield tipped the Padres cap on his Hall of Fame plaque to Steinbrenner during his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday.

"I want to thank you for bringing me to the New York Yankees," Winfield said to the Boss, whose travels mysteriously did not bring him to Cooperstown to honor the player who once obsessed him enough to lead to his suspension from baseball.

When a crowd of 23,000 induction fans audibly snickered, Winfield added: "I'm serious. It was an experience that changed my life in a positive way."

Then Winfield told Steinbrenner, whereever he was: "I'm glad time, distance and clear minds have brought about a respect and a friendship we didn't have at one time."

Wow. Who'd have thunk it?

It's hard to say which was the most vivid moment in the 10 seasons Winfield and Steinbrenner spent together in New York, from 1981 through 1990.

Was it:

  • A) Steinbrenner stomping into the press box after a zero-RBI game by Winfield in 1985 to snort: "I used to have Mr. October. Now I've got Mr. May."

  • Or B) Their dueling lawsuits over Winfield's charitable foundation and Steinbrenner's refusal to honor his contractually mandated contributions to it?

  • Or C) Steinbrenner hiring local snitch Howie Spira to spy on Winfield and gather dirt for future use, which ultimately led to the commissioner bouncing the Boss clear out of the sport for a year?

    Whatever, it's safe to say Winfield didn't win many employee-of-the-month awards in those days.

    But the clear minds -- not to mention the potential for Winfield to wear a Yankees cap on his plaque -- ultimately took over. So the Boss invited Winfield back to throw out the first ball at a postseason game. The Yankees plastered his bio in the front of their media guide. They even scheduled a Dave Winfield Day this month.

    OK, so Winfield opted to go into the Hall as a Padre, anyway. But at least they've dropped their lawsuits -- and their pointed fingers.

    "He's said in newspaper and magazine articles that he regrets what happened," Winfield said after his speech. "We've had face-to-face meetings, and he said the same thing. That's tempered some of the bad things that happened over the years. And I appreciate that, because it was extremely, extremely difficult in those years.

    "I wish it would have been different. I always hoped it would change. But I made it through. I survived. And the passage of time and distance and, I think, his respect for my success, just opened up the relationship. So we're fine. 'Fine' simplifies it too much, but I know he's happy for my success. Times have changed. And I'm happy to be welcomed back to that organization."

    The Puck won't stop here
    His Hall of Fame plaque cites his "infectious exuberance." And Kirby Puckett was as true as ever to the words on that plaque Sunday.

    He was supposed to be too short to play baseball. He was supposed to be too much of a singles hitter to be a star. That never stopped the great Kirby, just the way the blinding glaucoma in his right eye hasn't stopped him from living.

    "I would say to any young person," Puckett said in his induction speech, "that if anyone tells you you can't do what you want to do or be what you want to be, don't believe them. I wanted to play baseball from the time I was 5 years old. So always remember the guiding principle in my life: You CAN be what you want to be. Work hard, and I tell you that anything's possible."

    Maybe he can't play baseball anymore. But he's still smiling, still exuding the joy he played with, still brightening the lives of everyone he meets. And he made it clear Sunday that won't be changing.

    "I'm the most positive person you ever met," he said after the induction ceremony. "I don't let one bad thing get to me. So I'm blind in one eye. I'm probably 20-15 in the other. I could probably hit .290 with one eye. But if it ain't .300, Puck wants no parts of it.

    "There's nothing," Puckett said, "for me to be mad about. My only regret is that my mom and my dad didn't live to be here today. My mom -- I'm sure she'd be smiling. She probably wouldn't even spank me anymore. I can still feel all those spankings."

    He earned those spankings. He admits that. He earned them by "hitting the ball through all the neighbor's windows. I broke lamps. I broke everything in the house."

    "So I want to say, 'Mom, I hope you see now it's worth it. Your little baby's going to the Hall of Fame."

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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