A 2012 baseball question: When will Albert Pujols get "there"?
The old, cramped visiting clubhouse in Tiger Stadium allowed for little privacy, not that Bob Watson had any intention of being discrete that night in April 1981, when he was a member of the Yankees and a fairly new teammate of Dave Winfield. Watson didn't care who heard him as he called out the newest, Yankees free-agent prize.
The Yankees had won the first two games of a three-game series against the Tigers, winning, 4-1, the second night. Willie Randolph had hit his second -- and last -- home run of what would be come an abridged season to provide three runs. Earlier, Barry Foote, who joined the team that day after being acquired from the Cubs, homered in his first at-bat in the American League.
Watson took note of the goings-on and when the team returned to the clubhouse, he loudly brought up the topic of home runs. At that moment, the Yankees had played 16 games. Randolph had two more home runs than Winfield and Foote, the American League neophyte, had one more than the slugger George Steinbrenner's checkbook had lured four months earlier.
Watson had the floor. "Hey, Winny," he said. "When you were over there in the other league, did you have a trot?"
Winfield's only response was "What?"
"You know," Watson said. "Did you ever hit a home run over there and trot around the bases?"
"Yeah, a few times," Winfield said, realizing the mocking tone of Watson's words. "Why?"
Watson: "So, you do have a trot."
"You gonna break it out over here, in this league, any time soon?
"I mean the new man has one, and Willie's gone long distance twice. And you, big Winny, you've got as many as the pitchers."
Winfield took it. What else could he do? His batting average had dropped 25 points in the previous four games, but he was batting .316. His on-base average was high, .418. But he had scored six runs and driven in merely seven. And in his own words, he had "Done no damage." Moreover, Watson's good-nature needle had stung a bit.
"I'll have to take care of that." Winfield said in a tone inconsistent with a vow or a promise.
The following afternoon in Detroit, Winfield grounded out in the first inning. It was his 58th at-bat without damage. He hit 20 home runs the previous season and 34 the summer before that. He was a slugger. And he was being paid to slug.
Finally, in the third inning, after the Yankees had scored once against a third-year starter named Jack Morris, Winfield broke out his trot for all to see, but not until he sprinted toward first base, all the while watching No. 1 barely clear the right-field fence. After he rounded first, he looked back over his left shoulder to the visiting dugout and pointed to right field with his right hand.
At that point, he said one word: "There."
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.