"It's the strangest thing," says Yankees coach Don Zimmer. "When he puts that hat on, he looks like the Babe." Ruth wore the cap in 1934, his final season in New York. Wells donned it to pitch in the first inning of a game against Cleveland on June 28. When he returned to the dugout, Torre made him take the cap off. "I didn't know he had it on [at first]," Torre said. "It wasn't the standard uniform. Boomer has to live by the same rules as everybody else."
Wells's memorabilia collection is not limited to Ruthiana, and he works on ii as persistently as he works on hitters. On Opening Day this year he got Joe DiMaggio to sign three balls. "Joe was in a good mood, to me at least," says Wells "He won't sign for some of the Yankees." Among them is Brian Boehringer, who has been blown off by the Yankee Clipper three years running.
"Hey, Boomer," said Boehringer "How'd you get DiMaggio to sign?"
"You've got to know how to talk to the man," said Wells. "Don't ask him about Marilyn Monroe or he'll get pissed. You schmooze him a little, tell him what he wants to hear. Then you shove the ball in his face."
OPPOSING CHANGE, WELLS HEAVES
The great Warren Spahn used to say that hitting is timing, and pitching is upsetting that timing. Few pitchers upset hitters more than Wells. He works quickly and doesn't waste a lot of pitches throwing inside often enough to make the outside of the plate his own. "Boomer can get beat up in a hurry," says Torre. "But for the most part, he keeps hitters in the big part of the ballpark by jumping ahead with a first-pitch fastball and throwing strikes whenever and wherever he wants. His control is that good."
Besides two-and four-seam fastballs, Wells has a slippery slider and a 12-to-6-o'clock curve that dips, wiggles and does a fair rendition of Chuck Berry's duck strut. "I love the way Boomer fires that curve," says Baltimore outfielder Brady Anderson. "It's like: Here it is, hit it."
One pitch Wells rarely fires at lefties is a changeup. "I've had no success with it," he says. "It runs against my pitching philosophy."
That philosophical dispute traces back at least to 1991, when Wells was with the Blue Jays and Toronto manager Cito Gaston challenged his lefty dogma during a game against the Boston Red Sox. With lefthanded Mike Greenwell up, Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders called for a changeup. Wells shook him off. Borders flashed the sign again. Wells shook him off again. Borders tried a third time. Wells wouldn't give in. Finally, Borders ran out to the mound. "You'd better throw that pitch," he said. "Cito's calling it."
"He's calling it," growled Wells, "but I'm the one who'll be taking the loss."