Thirty-five years ago today, Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield signed a 10-year contract worth $23 million with the Yankees. It was the richest contract in sports history at the time. Winfield had started his career with the Padres.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner famously thought the two sides originally agreed to a 10-year, $16 million contract, which led to a long-lasting feud. Winfield went 1 for 22 in the 1981 World Series loss to the Dodgers, prompting Steinbrenner to call him "Mr. May."
Steinbrenner reportedly fed fictitious stories to the press about Winfield throughout the 1980s and had his managers bat him down in the order or outright bench him at times. Then, in 1990, Steinbrenner paid Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up embarrassing information on Winfield.
Hiring Spira resulted in Steinbrenner being banned from baseball for life, though he was reinstated two years later. Winfield was traded to the Angels at midseason in 1990, year 10 of his historic 10-year contract. He was 38 years old at the time.
During his time in New York, Winfield went to eight All-Star Games and hit .290/.356/.495 (134 OPS+) with 205 home runs, 818 RBI and 26.9 WAR. He did that despite missing the entire 1989 season with a back injury. Winfield and Don Mattingly were the stars of those 1980s Yankees teams that failed to make the postseason year after year.
Winfield retired following the 1995 season -- he eventually won a World Series title with the 1992 Blue Jays -- as a career .283/.353/.475 (130 OPS+) hitter with 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and 1,833 RBI. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2001.
To date, Winfield is one of only two men drafted in three different sports, joining Dave Logan. Winfield was drafted by the Padres, the NBA's Atlanta's Hawks, the ABA's Utah Jazz and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.