SI Vault
 
The Unvarnished Ruth
Franz Lidz
September 08, 1997
Free-spirited lefthander DAVID WELLS may get tattooed by hitters every now and then, but he's fulfilling his dream—pitching for the Yankees, the team of his idol, the Babe
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 08, 1997

The Unvarnished Ruth

Free-spirited lefthander DAVID WELLS may get tattooed by hitters every now and then, but he's fulfilling his dream—pitching for the Yankees, the team of his idol, the Babe

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Borders returned to the plate and was rebuffed yet again. On the catcher's fifth attempt, Wells relented and threw the change. "Actually, it was more of a lob than a throw," says Toronto's Joe Carter. "He could have tossed it underhand faster." By the time Wells got the ball back, Greenwell was on first with a single.

Gaston tramped angrily to the pitching rubber and demanded the ball. "If you want it, go get it," Wells muttered and flung the ball down the third base line.

Wells recalls stalking to the clubhouse, showering and leaving the stadium. Toronto coach Gene Tenace remembers things differently: "Believe me, Boomer went straight into Cito's office. I know, because Cito was right behind him."

HEFTY LEFTY FALLS OFF EARTH

"It was like I had dropped off the face of the planet." That's Wells describing how he felt when Toronto cut him near the end of spring training in 1993. For six years he had alternated between spot starting and long relief. In '92 he figured he deserved a place in the Blue Jays rotation after winning 15 games in 28 starts and 12 relief appearances in '91. Instead, he started just 14 games and finished 7-9 with a 5.40 ERA. "The Blue Jays played me like a yo-yo," he says. "They shouldn't have made me fight for a starting job. To me, that's just showing disrespect."

Getting dumped, says Carter, shook Wells out of a deep sleep. "You always knew he had a great arm, but his talent wasn't being tapped," Carter says.

Wells credits former Detroit Tigers skipper Sparky Anderson with turning around his career. After the Tigers signed Wells in April '93, Anderson made him a full-time starter, helped him regain his confidence and made him take the gold hoop out of his earlobe. Remade and remodeled, Wells won four of his first five starts for Detroit and was 9-1 after his 15th start.

"Sparky really believed in me," Wells says. "He made me what I am today."

For example, "I've learned to at least listen to what I'm told before I respond," he says. "When I was a Blue Jay, I never wanted to listen. Now I just enjoy life. I don't get into anybody's business. I have fun."

Yet every once in a while the old excitable Boomer resurfaces. He knocked himself out of the Yankees' game with the Florida Marlins on June 14 after arguing with plate umpire Greg Bonin. Wells, who had spit up five runs in the first inning, believed the ump had squeezed the strike zone on a couple of his pitches. When he went to bat in the top of the second, he looked at Bonin and muttered, "You're horse——."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12