Being a thoroughly modern ballplayer, the first person Jim Winn called when he learned he made the Pittsburgh Pirates was his agent.
Last year, Winn played for the Alexandria Dukes, Class A in the Carolina League. He was a sore-armed pitcher with a 1-2 record, and a 3.78 ERA. On Wednesday, he was the last player introduced on opening day in St. Louis.
"There was a two-hour rain delay and it was cold," Winn said. "It didn't matter. I didn't feel a thing. All these things were happening. They were showing the Cards winning the World Series and introducing everyone. There were all these white Monte Carlos driving them around."
Then they introduced the Pirates. "I was last," he said. "I kind of wondered if they forgot about me. I didn't tip my hat. I did that last year in Alexandria. By the time I got up there, it was time to go back."
He wanted to stand there and not move, not let the moment end. "When I was a kid, I was always in the stands watching it," he said.
Suddenly, he was in the bullpen (where the phone didn't ring) and everything was speeded up, which was just as well because there are certain things you want to get over. "I'm a rookie," he said. "I can't say I'm relaxed."
He is 23 years old and a right-hander. He has good stuff and "a good name for a baseball player," he said. "There used to be a guy named Jim Wynn (he retired in 1977). Sometimes people used to call me Early Wynn."
That seems especially appropriate in light of recent events. Sore-armed young pitchers do not ordinarily jump from Class A to the majors in one year. "A million-to-one shot," Winn said. Harding Peterson, general manager of the Pirates, says he can't think of anyone else that has done it while he has been with the team.
Last year, Winn, the Pirates' No. 1 pick in the 1981 draft, went to spring training, was cut, and sent to Portland (AAA). He strained a tendon in his elbow, sat out six weeks, and was demoted to Buffalo (AA), where he was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA. He hurt his arm again and his back began to tighten. By the end of July, he was a Duke living on Duke Street.
He didn't pitch for two more weeks. But on Sept. 1, he pitched six innings, giving up three singles, and the Dukes won the Carolina League Northern championship. "It was the best six innings I pitched for over a year," he said. "I was coming back from arm trouble and beginning to doubt if I could do it anymore. It was the farthest I went all year. It built my confidence."
He came to spring training this year hoping he'd be sent to Hawaii, this year's AAA team. Chuck Tanner, the Pirates' manager, came to spring training with an idea of converting him to a reliever, something Winn had been thinking about.
Don Robinson got hurt. Enrique Romo retired. The Pirates needed pitching. They gave Winn a chance. He threw five scoreless innings in five out of six days and finished with a 2.61 ERA. Reporters began coming around asking how it felt to make the team. He said he didn't know he had.
Tanner told a Pittsburgh paper Winn was his new Goose Gossage. "Jim is a lot better- looking than Goose Gossage," his mother, Pat, said.
He may not be as overpowering as Gossage but, "he's got an overpowering fast ball," John Lipon, the Dukes' manager, said. "Throw it up, it rises. Down, it sinks."
The last day of spring training, Tanner told him he made the team. He received a one-year contract for the major league minimum, $35,000. "He can count to 25," Tanner said. "He knew he was one of 25."
Tanner says Winn will be his "long short man." That means, he'll take whatever comes his way. "It shows that if you work hard your dream can come true," Tanner said. "The major leagues on opening day. They were singing the national anthem and he heard it."