HALF-ALLIGATOR HALF-HUMAN KILLS MIAMI MAN—AND ESCAPES FROM LABORATORY!
This is the startling cover line in the Weekly World News in David (Boomer) Wells's lap. But unlike the fugitive "Allisapien" in the story, the New York Yankees lefthander isn't biting. "Oh, come on!" he says with a wave of the hand. "This is stupid, man." Still, Wells pages ahead. He pauses at a dispatch headlined SCIENTISTS BAFFLED BY PLUG AT BOTTOM OF GREAT SALT LAKE. Wells's brow furrows, his head shakes. "Uh-huh," he says, sighing deeply. "Yeah, right!"
Onward. Wells stops at yet another bold-faced lie: HUNDREDS OF EARTH WOMEN RALLY AGAINST EXTRATERRESTRIAL BRUTALITY! FEMINIST SAYS SEX ATTACKS BY SPACE ALIENS MUST STOP. Wells tosses the paper away. "I can't even look at it anymore," he snaps. "Does anybody actually think these stories are for real?"
For months, Yankees fans have been asking the same question about stories involving Wells. Since signing a three-year, $13.5 million free-agent contract with the Bronx Bombers last December, this big cartoon of a man has been providing New York's sports sections with copy that would be right at home in a supermarket tabloid.
Wells' wild pitch screamed Newsday in January after he broke his pitching hand back home in San Diego during an early-morning street fight over missing car keys. TOTALLY RUTHLESS blared the New York Post in February when Wells floated the blasphemous idea of wearing the Babe's retired number. OVER & GOUT bellowed the New York Daily News after a lumpy-dumpy Wells arrived in training camp and missed four days of throwing because of an ailment commonly associated with Ruthian gluttony, WHISKEY BUSINESS trumpeted the next day's Post after Wells gave new meaning to the term "high-ball pitcher" by minimizing his bout with gout: "If [the cause] is beer, then I'll go to whiskey; if it's whiskey, then I'll go to vodka. Who knows? Maybe I'll have to drink water. I don't care. I just don't want to hurt." WELLS & co. bleated Newsday in early April after disgraced O.J. detective Mark Fuhrman showed up at a Yankees workout in Seattle as Wells's guest. While the story questioned the wisdom of hosting the racially challenged ex-cop during the season that celebrated the 50th anniversary of baseball's integration, it skirted the issue of whether the glove in Wells's locker had been planted.
The unshakable Wells shrugs off these preseason contretemps as easily as he does a three-run homer. "S—happens," he says. "I do what I want to do and say what I want to say. The press hears what I say but prints what it wants to print. I don't care. In fact, I don't give a rat's ass what people say or think about me." He adds, good-naturedly, "Of course, if you print that, I'm gonna have to kill you."
Wells is a free spirit of the kind baseball once produced in abundance. If his breed seems like an endangered species, that may reflect the nature of the modern game. "Baseball is a kid's game," says Seattle Mariners reliever Mike Timlin, "and Boomer plays it that way."
PITCHER TURNS BODY INTO FAMILY ALBUM
It's a muggy Maryland night, and Wells comes in from warmups at Oriole Park damp and disheveled. He sheds his jersey and he's a little less damp, but with a grubby gray T-shirt blousing over his belt he looks less like an athlete than like an enforcer from an outlaw biker band. Yankees manager Joe Torre thinks Wells may have misconstrued the Eat to Win Diet: "It doesn't mean the more he eats, the more he wins."
Wells, 34, is 6'4" and weighs maybe 250 pounds. When he sits down for a postgame meal with his teammates, he fills the table. On the diamond, straddling the mound, he fills the ballpark. Wells has presence. He also had a 14-8 record and 4.21 ERA at week's end. And he has one of the world's most comprehensive collections of profane T-shirts. In past campaigns Wells has concealed them under his team jersey. But a FECES PEANUT BUTTER CUP shirt, even hidden, won't cut it on George Steinbrenner's Yankees. "George is very particular about what's under the pinstripes," Wells says. "The Yankees are pretty prim and proper. It's tradition, so I just go by what George says. He's the man, and I respect that."