When the Gophers were knocked out of the NIT, Winfield immediately joined the university’s baseball team in Texas. Despite missing a majority of the offseason program, Winfield earned All-America honors en route to his team’s appearance in the College World Series.
Winfield shined brightly in the postseason despite the Gophers’ third-place finish, earning MVP of the 1973 College World Series — as a pitcher. His prowess drew affection from the Padres, who liked Winfield so much they drafted him fourth overall in that year’s draft. Winfield never spent a day in the minors; the Padres said they needed his powerful bat in the lineup. Taking a path rarely seen today, Winfield was primed for a big career despite passing up the developmental process considered vital to molding young stars.
Perhaps more impressive is how many other teams were vying for his services. He remains the only athlete ever to be drafted by four professional sports leagues. In 1973, the Utah Stars of the ABA and Atlanta Hawks of the NBA also called Winfield’s name on draft day. Even though he never played in college, the NFL sought Winfield’s talents too, as his hometown Minnesota Vikings took him in the 17th round of the draft. The highly coveted Winfield ultimately chose to stick with baseball, the sport he had shined in most during his collegiate career.
Although he never played another professional sport like some of the other famous dual-sport athletes — Jackson, Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders among them — Winfield very well could have enjoyed a successful career in another sport, a feat few top-tier athletes can accomplish in today’s age of specialization.
Troy Farkas was the 2016 multimedia intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum