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David Wells' Perfect Game

by Harvey Frommer

"Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches & Baseball" is the name of the new book by portly and pugnacious Yankee hurler David Wells.

He claims in the book that he was "half drunk" when he pitched a perfect game in 1998. Now he backs away from the "half drunk" commentary and claims he was hung over. This first and perhaps last literary effort by Wells is an embarrassment to all.

Part of the title of the book comes from the great game he pitched in 1998. Back then unlike now - - he was "perfect."

Going into the game on May 17, 1998, the season had been a checkered one for the burly flake David Lee Wells out of Torrance, California. He took the mound with a 5.23 ERA. Consistency was his problem, some said inconsistency.

Wells marched always to his own drummer, one game wearing an actual Babe Ruth hat on the mound before he was told by manager Joe Torre to take it off. In a start on May 6 in Texas, he had been lifted by Torre. Wells not too tactfully flipped the ball to his miffed manager as he left the mound.

On this 17th day of May, three days shy of his 35th birthday, Wells took the mound on a Sunday against the Minnesota Twins. He was locked in right from the start. Between innings, he sat next to David Cone who was a calming influence.

In the seventh inning, Cone told him: "It is time to break out the knuckleball," Wells laughed, a big if nervous one. "I started getting really nervous," Wells recalled. "I knew what was going on, I was hoping the fans would kind of shush a little bit. They were making me nervous."

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Wells went through neck and arm stretches in the dugout. The crowd of 49,820 gave him a standing ovation as he came out to pitch the ninth with the Yankees leading 4-0. Bernie Williams supplied most of the Yankee offense, three hits including a home run.

The Twins went quickly. Rookie Jon Shave flew out to right. Javier Valentin fanned, the 11th K for Wells. Pat Meares lofted a fly to right. Paul O'Neill gloved it. Wells pumped his left fist twice at the ground after the final out that ended his perfect day on the mound after two hours and forty minutes. Swarmed over by his teammates, he was carried off the field.

Billy Crystal walked into the clubhouse after the game, walked over to the ecstatic Wells and asked: "I got here late, what happened?"

It was last done by Don Larsen - a perfect game at Yankee Stadium. Larsen and Wells share another distinction. They both attended Point Loma High School in San Diego. They both are also flakes, to be kind.

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