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Winfield, Puckett Headed To Cooperstown

Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett were elected Tuesday to the Hall of Fame on their first try, becoming the fourth pair of teammates picked by baseball writers in the same year.

Winfield, who had 3,110 hits and 465 home runs, and Puckett, whose All-Star career was cut short by glaucoma, played together on the Minnesota Twins in 1993-94.

"The best thing I can say about him and I played with a lot of guys was that he's the most positive person I played with on a daily basis," Winfield said from his home in the Los Angeles area. "He did something for every teammate."

While Puckett spent his entire career with the Twins, Winfield played for six teams.

So, which cap will Winfield wear on his Hall plaque?

"I can't tell you because I haven't thought about it yet," he said. "I didn't want to be presumptuous.

"The hat I'm wearing is the Hall of Fame hat today," he said. "My hat's off to all the teams that gave me the opportunity to do my thing."

Winfield was listed on 84.5 percent of the ballots and Puckett was chosen on 82.1 percent in voting by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. It took 75 percent for election.

The outfielders brought to 36 the players elected in their first year of eligibility. There are 251 overall members in the Hall.

Gary Carter finished third with 64.9 percent, followed by Jim Rice (57.9), Bruce Sutter (47.6) and Goose Gossage (44.3). Don Mattingly received 28.2 percent as a first-year candidate.

Winfield and Puckett joined Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez (2000), Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford (1974), and Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane (1947) as the only sets of teammates chosen in the same year by the BBWAA.

Puckett was an All-Star in 10 of his 12 seasons and led the Twins to unlikely World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. A career .318 hitter, he got more hits (2,040) in his first 10 years than any other player in the 20th century.

At 40, Puckett became the third-youngest player to be elected while living. Only Lou Gehrig (36) and Sandy Koufax (37) made it sooner.

Winfield joined Minnesota late in his career, and his 3,000th hit was a single that drove in Puckett.

Winfield, 49, was listed on 435 of 515 ballots, with 387 necessary for election, and Puckett was picked on 423.

Of the 32 candidates, 13 received under 5 percent and were dropped from further consideration. Among them: Detroit teammates Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish, along with Tom Henke and Dave Righetti.

Induction ceremonies will be held Aug. 5 at Cooperstown, N.Y. The festivities will include anyone selected by the Veterans Committee on March 6 at Tampa, Fla.

Winfield seemed destined for stardom from the day he was born Oct. 3, 1951, the afternoon when Bobby Thomson hit oe of the most famous home runs ever.

A multisport standout at the University of Minnesota, Winfield was drafted by the San Diego Padres, the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA.

He chose baseball, and without spending a single day in the minor leagues, went on to become a 12-time All-Star. He won five Gold Gloves in the outfield.

Overall, he batted .283 with 1,833 RBIs. He played from 1973-95, and returned from back surgery that sidelined for the entire 1989 season.

Winfield's toughest choice will be deciding which cap will appear on his plaque he became a star with the Padres, gained national recognition with the New York Yankees, delivered the game-winning hit in the 1992 World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays and got his 3,000th hit with his hometown Twins.

Winfield, who also played for the Angels and Indians, spent his longest time with the Yankees. And he has patched up his long-running feud with owner George Steinbrenner, the man who labeled him "Mr. May."

Much of the criticism Winfield heard in New York, he said, "doesn't really reflect the kind of player I was, the kind of person I was."

Winfield is among 24 players with 3,000 hits. He reached the mark in 1993 with an RBI single off Dennis Eckersley that drove in Puckett.

Every eligible player to hit that milestone has made the Hall. Once again, Pete Rose is off the ballot because of his permanent banishment from baseball.

Still, it was a hit that does not show up in Winfield's career total that meant the most to him. And no, it was not the time he hit a seagull with a warmup throw in Toronto in 1983, leading to his arrest.

Winfield's two-out, two-run double in the top of the 11th inning in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series clinched Toronto's championship over Atlanta. It was his only extra-base hit in 44 Series at-bats.

"It was just a lousy double," he recalled years later. "That hit, it just made everything right."

That double came off Braves reliever Charlie Leibrandt. In 1991, Leibrandt also served up Puckett's most famous hit an 11th-inning home run that won Game 6 of the World Series. The Twins won the title the next day.

Puckett won six Gold Gloves in center field and hit 207 home runs.

Plus, he exuded boundless energy and enthusiasm, making him a fan favorite at the Metrodome and everywhere else.

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