Originally created 05/18/98

Wells tosses rare perfect game



NEW YORK -- David Wells, who stalked off the mound after a bad outing earlier this month, pitched only the 13th perfect game in major league history as the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0 Sunday.

Wells struck out 11 and dominated the Twins from start to finish. Yankees fielders made no exceptionally tough plays to protect the first game since Kenny Rogers' gem for Texas on July 28, 1994, against the Angels.

Wells (5-1) went to a three-ball count on four batters -- coming back from a 3-0 on Matt Lawton in the fourth -- in pitching the first perfect game at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

The burly left-hander, three days short of his 35th birthday, spent the bottom of the eighth inning sitting alone in the dugout, stretching his neck and arms. The crowd of 49,820 gave him a standing ovation as he came out to pitch the final inning.

Wells made quick work of the Twins in the ninth, retiring rookie Jon Shave on a routine fly to right, striking out Javier Valentin and getting Pat Meares on a fly to right.

Wells pumped his left fist twice at the ground after the final out. His teammates swarmed him, and he was carried off the field.

There had been 12 perfect games since 1900 -- a number of others that were previously viewed as perfect, such as Harvey Haddix's extra-inning effort, were dropped from the list a few years ago by the records committee.

Wells and Larsen, along with both pitching perfect games at Yankee Stadium, share another distinction -- they both attended Point Loma High in San Diego.

Wells began the game with a 5.23 ERA, and his consistency was certainly in question. On May 6 in Texas, he nearly blew a 9-0 lead and tersely flipped the ball to manager Joe Torre when he was lifted in an eventual 15-13 win.

But Wells bounced back last Tuesday against Kansas City, winning 3-2. He retired his last 10 batters -- with the perfect game, he's now retired 37 consecutive batters.

"This kind of accomplishment is too far-fetched for me," Wells said. "You know what's going on, you try to keep things in check, but there's no way in heck you can."

Dwight Gooden pitched the last Yankees no-hitter, on May 14, 1996, against Seattle in New York. Wells pitched the first regular-season perfect game in Yankees' history.

Wells pitched the fourth no-hitter against the Twins -- Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game against them, and Vida Blue and Nolan Ryan, who last did it in 1974, also accomplished the feat.

Wells, a carefree character throughout a career that began in 1987 with Toronto, signed as a free agent with the Yankees before the 1997 season. Right away, he became embroiled in a bit of controversy when he broke his hand in an offseason street fight.

But Wells also eagerly embraced the Yankees' storied history and tradition. He once wore an actual Babe Ruth hat on the mound before manager Joe Torre made him take it off.

Wells tangled with owner George Steinbrenner last season. Both of them volatile, they argued loudly in the clubhouse and seemed ready to come to blows.

Wells' weight has often been a subject of contention, and that was part of the conflict with Steinbrenner, who is stickler for conditioning. Wells' weight also contributed to a condition of gout in the spring of 1997, and was an issue when met with Torre shortly after his problem on the mound against Texas.