Winfield glad Morris now his teammate

June 23, 1992|By Dallas Morning News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dave Winfield laughs when he thinks about the hundreds of showdowns he has had with Jack Morris. He can't help himself.

Morris on the pitcher's mound may be the closest baseball can come to a Steven Seagal film festival. The seriousness of the occasion leaves Winfield smiling.

"He's out on the mound grumbling," Winfield said. "He's moaning, battling, making these faces. Then you hit him, and he looks at you like, 'How did you get a hit off me?'

"I'd say, 'Just throw the ball over the plate. Who do you think you are?' Imagine this. Him and me, playing together. I like being teammates."

Morris and Winfield have been two of the fiercest warriors in the American League for more than a decade. Together, in the twilight of their careers, after injuries made them face their mortality, they have signed on for what may be one last adventure -- to get the Toronto Blue Jays to their first World Series.

Toronto, leading the American League East by one game over Baltimore, has the best record in the majors over the past 10 years, winning three division titles. But the Blue Jays are 0-for-3 in the AL Championship Series. Morris and Winfield are supposed to keep history from repeating itself this October.

"Everybody in this room believes we can win," Morris said. "The Blue Jays haven't done it yet, but there's a lot of teams that haven't done it yet. That doesn't mean they won't. I've been [in the Series] two times. I'm looking forward to a third."

Morris, the 1991 Series Most Valuable Player for Minnesota, has won four consecutive starts to raise his record to 8-3.

Winfield, a 12-time All-Star, is expected to bat cleanup, one spot behind Joe Carter, as he has all season. He's off to his best start since back surgery forced him to miss the 1989 season and effectively ended his years with the New York Yankees.

"If he [Carter] wasn't everything I thought he always was, I'd really show you what I can do," said Winfield, who is batting .304 with 11 home runs and 39 runs batted in. "He cleans the bases pretty good."

Winfield proved he had overcome his back problems with two solid seasons after being traded to California in May 1990. But he has been even better since coming to Toronto.

"Maybe my concentration is better," Winfield, 40, said. "Every run you score could mean the championship. I look at it like that every day. I try to instill that in some of the younger guys. Some veterans, too. It's not like I've got a handful of rings, but I know what it takes for this competition.

"Some guys think they're going to be in the game forever. That they're always going to be on good teams, supportive teams. I say, 'Not!' "

Winfield learned the hard way. After eight frustrating years in San Diego, he got to the World Series in 1981, his first season with the New York Yankees. He went 1-for-22, told himself he'd be back the next year, but hasn't played in another postseason game.

"If you don't treat this game with a certain reverence, a certain diligence," Winfield said, "it will kick you right in the behind."

Winfield is something of a role model for Morris. He has been since they were teen-agers growing up in St. Paul, Minn.

"I was lucky because I saw Dave play when he was an amateur," said Morris, 37. "To play with Dave is really fun for me. He's a guy who still loves the game, gives his all and prepares himself to play. He should open a lot of ballplayers' eyes."

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