The Minnesota Twins' Dave Winfield, who is distinguishing himself with every base hit this season, actually became a little less special the other night.
When Chicago third baseman Robin Ventura charged the mound and subsequently got pummeled by Nolan Ryan on Wednesday night, he joined Winfield as the only opponents to so challenge the legendary Texas pitcher.Winfield's bout with Ryan took place in 1980, when he played for San Diego and Ryan pitched for Houston. As Winfield remembered it, Ryan already had brushed him back twice in the game with inside pitches.
When it happened a third time, Winfield headed for the mound.
"The catcher, Luis Pujols, tried to stop me, so I stiff-armed him and he went down," Winfield said Thursday. "The umpire got in the way, and I grabbed him and moved him. I got to Nolan and took a big swing, and the next thing I knew we were on the bottom of a big pile, trying to get little punches in."
Winfield and Ventura share something else. Each was ejected from the game, while Ryan was allowed to keep pitching. In the more recent bout, Ryan wrapped Ventura in a headlock and threw several punches.
Winfield said he talked to Ryan for the first time three years ago, when he congratulated the pitcher before a game on his 5,000th strikeout. "We're both competitors," Winfield said. "We never talked about (the fight)."
Winfield said he didn't mind sharing this particular distinction with Ventura. "It's part of the game," he said. "Just like the other times when a pitcher knocks me down, and I still get a hit. That happened earlier this year in Detroit. Guy knocked me down with the bases loaded, I got up, grand slam."