Alaska Baseball

Fairbanks group to raise statue in honor of former Goldpanner Dave Winfield

When Fairbanks resident Lance Parrish read a New York Times story in the lead-up to the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions in July 2022, it didn’t sit right with him.

While nearly every Hall of Famer had a statue raised in their honor, the story reported that slugger Dave Winfield was one of the few players in the elite baseball fraternity who didn’t. His peers gave him a hard time about it, chiding the towering 12-time All-Star for his perceived deficiency, wrote Times reporter Tyler Kepner.

Parrish, born and raised in Fairbanks, remembered Winfield’s days with the Alaska Goldpanners more than five decades ago and figured if anyone deserved a statue, it was Winfield.

“It just struck me that if someone of Dave’s stature didn’t have the honor of having a statue ... then something needs to be done,“ Parrish said at a news conference Tuesday.

Parrish took action, and starting this summer, Winfield’s Hall-of-Fame hecklers will be forced to pipe down.

A group called the Winfield Fairbanks Project has commissioned a Winfield statue, to be unveiled in coordination with Fairbanks’ annual Midnight Sun Game on June 21.

It is set to be erected in a fabled spot near Growden Park, where a legendary Winfield home run left the stadium, crossed First Avenue and landed near the Fairbanks Curling Club, ricocheting off the building.


In summer 2022, Utah sculptor Gary Lee Price had recently completed a statue in downtown Fairbanks’ Doyon Plaza depicting the first climber to reach the summit of Denali, Walter Harper.

So Parrish reached out to Price about the prospect of creating a Winfield statue. When Price found out who the subject would be, he agreed immediately.

Despite having 465 professional home runs to his name, Winfield on Tuesday maintained a clear memory of the famed Fairbanks home run. He said he’d been limited to pitching during his time at the University of Minnesota, and it wasn’t until he came to Fairbanks that he came into his own as a hitter.

So when he stepped into the batter’s box, he was still known as a pitcher and not the power hitter he evolved into. Inserted as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded, Winfield got ahead in the count with three balls and no strikes.

“The manager for the other team walked almost to the baseline and told his pitcher, ‘Throw the ball over the plate. He’s just a pitcher,’” Winfield recalled. “Shouldn’t have done that. The next ball was a fastball. It started high and left the park high.”

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The statue, which will stand 8 feet tall and weigh 500 pounds, represents Winfield’s follow-through on the swing as he follows the ball leaving the park.

“Looking at all of the different poses and all the videos and the pictorial depictions of Dave, when I came across that pose, it was like, ‘OK, that’s it,’” Price said.

The group is accepting donations to support the production and upkeep of the statue at

Winfield played for the Goldpanners in both the 1971 and 1972 summer seasons. He was a multisport star, and in 1973 his career exploded. He was drafted by franchises in four different leagues across three sports. The San Diego Padres drafted him in the MLB Draft, and despite not playing football collegiately, he was a selection of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Draft.

Both the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and Utah Stars of the ABA selected Winfield, who had also played basketball at University of Minnesota. He eventually joined the Padres and debuted on June 19, 1973.

Winfield fondly recalls his two summers in Fairbanks before he launched his pro career. His college coach Dick Siebert had first floated the idea of Winfield coming to Alaska. His teams in Alaska finished second in the National Baseball Congress World Series in 1971 and first in 1972.

“It was one of the most unique experiences I had in my life,” Winfield said. “I met a lot of great people. We were the best collegiate team in the country.”

He said he stayed in a log home outside of town, and in his first year, he worked at a Nerland Furniture.

“I remember telling the coach at the end of the year — I’d had a pretty good year pitching and hitting — ‘Coach, I need an executive position next year,‘” Winfield recalled with a laugh.

His “executive position” the following summer was mowing grass, which Winfield admitted was at the very least easier on his back.

Part of a statue dilemma was because Winfield played for six different teams, including earning a World Series ring with Toronto and a successful but tumultuous stint with the New York Yankees. He even returned to play in his home state of Minnesota for the Twins.


But Winfield said he’s still thrilled to be remembered fondly — and now honored with a statue — in the state where he played for a couple of summers during his formative years.

“To be honored like this, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “I look forward to bringing my family to a place that really made a difference in my life.”

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.