No Place Like This for Winfield’s 400th : Angels: He becomes 23rd player to reach home run milestone, doing it in the area where he grew up.
It was a mundane act, essentially. After all, it was something Dave Winfield had done 399 times.
But as David West’s high fastball left Winfield’s bat in the Metrodome Wednesday night, Winfield stood back to admire it: A home run to left field, the 400th homer of his career. He could not deny it was special.
“For some reason, I didn’t think it would be that much of an accomplishment,” said Winfield, became the 23rd player in history to reach 400.
It was, he admitted.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I’m gratified.”
Since hitting No. 399 against Minnesota’s Kevin Tapani on Aug. 5 in Anaheim, he had been in a one-for-27 slump.
But in the fourth inning of the Angels’ 7-4 victory over Minnesota, Winfield swatted away the suspense with his 22nd home run of the season.
“Three-ninety-nine sounds like something you’d purchase at a discount store,” he said. “Four hundred sounds so much better.”
The two-run homer gave the Angels a 3-2 lead, and they never trailed again in recording their second victory in a row against American League West leader Minnesota. The last-place Angels trail the Twins by 12 games.
Winfield’s homer was one of three by the Angels. Wally Joyner hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning, his 16th homer, to give the Angels a 5-3 lead. Lance Parrish hit his 14th in the ninth.
“It was like a wish,” Winfield said. “I hoped it would be for a winning cause, and it was. It gave us the lead in a tough game, and maybe it gave us momentum.”
The other wish was that it came at home. Not the Angels’, but Winfield’s. He was born in St. Paul, and played baseball and basketball at the University of Minnesota.
“I did it at home,” he said. “This is where I started. This is where I grew up.”
It was also in the Metrodome this season that Winfield celebrated the first three-homer game of his career, on April 13.
In the stands Wednesday his brother, some aunts and friends celebrated the moment as the watched him.
In the dugout, so did the Angels.
“We told him, “Glad you did it, now go back to playing baseball,’ Dave Parker said. “We know he’s really been trying hard.”
Manager Doug Rader saw that too. “I’m extremely happy for him,” Rader said. “It’s a terrific milestone, and a terrific burden to be removed from his shoulders.”
Winfield said it was not so much the pressure of No. 400 that dogged him, but the pressure the Angels faced. “It would be different if we were winning,” he said. “But when you’re hitting in the middle of the order and you’re cloggin’ it up, leaving runners on base, that’s pressure.”
Of Winfield’s 400 homers, 43 have come after he sat out the 1989 season with a back injury that many thought would end his career.
He still remembers the first one, on June 21, 1973--"It was my second or third big league day. I tomahawked an 0-and-2 pitch out of left in San Diego."--but numbers 100, 200 and 300 are forgotten.
Sometimes he thinks about the homers that weren’t--the balls he hit in such parks as Jack Murphy Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
“I played eight years (in San Diego.) With the fence up there, I probably lost 30 or more. In New York--give me a break. They used to have the fence out there at 161st St.”
The lasting impression is one of durability, and of perseverance.
“It’s almost 20 years--20 to 23 homers a year for 18 years,” he said. “some guys bash 30 or 40 home runs. Let’s see you do it 10, 15 years in a row.”
Leader of the Pack
Dave Winfield, with 400, is the leading active home run hitter. A look at the top 10 active home run hitters.
Player No. *Dave Winfield 400 Dale Murphy 392 Eddie Murray 390 Dwight Evans 383 Andre Dawson 366 Carlton Fisk 364 Dave Parker 339 Jack Clark 327 Gary Carter 318 Lance Parrish 299
*Winfield is 23rd on the all-time list.
(Orange County Edition) Home Run Leaders
Major league players with 400 or more career home runs and active players closing in (x-active): 1. Hank Aaron: 755 2. Babe Ruth: 714 3. Willie Mays: 660 4. Frank Robinson: 586 5. Harmon Killebrew: 573 6. Reggie Jackson: 563 7. Mike Schmidt: 548 8. Mickey Mantle: 536 9. Jimmie Foxx: 534 10. Willie McCovey: 521 Ted Williams: 521 12. Ernie Banks: 512 Eddie Mathews: 512 14. Mel Ott: 511 15. Lou Gehrig: 493 16. Stan Musial: 475 Willie Stargell: 475 18. Carl Yastrzemski: 452 19. Dave Kingman: 442 20. Billy Williams: 426 21. Darrell Evans: 414 22. Duke Snider: 407 23. x-Dave Winfield: 400 Closing In 25. x-Dale Murphy: 392 26. x-Eddie Murray: 390