Put Jimmy Wynn near the top of my list of players I wish I had seen play. I’ve read about him and talked to people about him, but the closest I know from Wynn as a thirty-five year old Yankee fan is the fact that he was in the dugout when Billy Martin yanked Reggie Jackson off the field at Fenway Park in 1977. I got to thinking about Wynn cause I found an article on him the other day at Think Factory. It’s one of those stories where the long-retired jock talks about how he’d be a Hall of Famer if he played today. Not much of an article. But it reminded me of something I once read about Wynn.
I read it in Joe Morgan’s autobiography (co-written by David Falkner), of all places. Morgan and Wynn were teammates in Houston for nine years. They both first appeared in 1963 when Morgan was 19 and Wynn was just 21. Wynn had more talent than Morgan. Wynn was a five-tool player. Stuck out a lot but walked a lot. Hit for power, steal bases, had a great arm.
They were the best of friends. Later, Morgan wrote about Wynn:
He was Willie Mays at the same age, but he just had a different agenda, and because of that he never progressed [into a truly great player].
It used to bother me a lot that Jimmy wouldn’t work to nuture his talent. I’d talk to him about it but it never mattered and I never pushed it because I liked him too much and who as I, anyway, to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t be do with their careers. It may be that Jimmy had the right idea and I had the wrong one about what a life in baseball was all about.
Jimmy, in so many ways, epitomized the old ballplayer, the guy who came along before the portfolios, the agents, and the business managers. When he said he was going to put aside most other things and concentrate on home runs, he was really saying he didn’t want to work at those other things. The home run, he knew, would keep him in the majors…
I am sure Jimmy could have made it to the Hall of Fame if he had wanted to, just as I know there are other players who might have if they had cultivated the superior talent they had. But Jimmy’s choice was clear. Maybe there should be a Hall of Fame for all those guys, too, the ones who decided that life at the top was about enjoying yourself to the fullest while you had the chance. I went another way. And I can measure that way not only by the numbers I put up, by the awards I got, but also by all those hours sitting alone in hotel rooms, watching TV, not enjoying myself very much, but doing what I wanted to do nevertheless.
Wynn was a monster talent who had a very good career, but wasn’t willing to do what it took to have a Hall of Fame career. Interesting how Morgan wonders if Wynn had the right idea all along.