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David Wells’ Perfect Game — 20 Years Later

Posted by Brandon Warne , 17 May 2018 · 602 views

david wells minnesota twins new york yankees paul molitor
This is an excerpt from a piece that originates at Zone Coverage here. Please click through to read the rest, and consider subscribing to the site.

It’s May 17, 1998.

It’s 8:30 a.m.

It’s a Sunday.

There is nothing remotely perfect about David Wells’ state of mind as he’s on the receiving end of a Senton Splash — as popularized by the Hardy Boyz of WWE fame from that era — from his son Brandon. Having poured himself into bed a mere 210 minutes earlier, Wells’ mind couldn’t be further from where it needs to be in a matter of hours — a date with the Minnesota Twins just after 1:30 in the afternoon.

The Yankees are in the midst of a wonderful start in what ends up being a legendary season, though Wells isn’t quite yet pulling his weight. Last time out, Wells mowed down a forgettable Royals lineup — though it did feature future Yankees stalwart Johnny Damon — on the way to his fourth win of the season. But the time out before that, Wells was throttled by the Texas Rangers, giving up seven earned runs while recording only eight outs in a game the Yankees won, 15-13.

That early May game pushed his season ERA to 5.77, and while Wells would get his revenge that October as the Yankees eliminated the Rangers in the division series in three straight games — thanks in large part to Boomer throwing eight shutout innings with 11 strikeouts before handing the ball to Mariano Rivera — he had to turn his attention to a Twins team that was closer to contraction than contention in 1998.

So Wells was headed into Sunday’s matchup with the Twins with a 5.23 ERA and one hell of a f*cking headache.
If anything big was brewing, it wasn’t taking place between Boomer’s ears.



Ask anyone about something that happened 20 years ago, and you’re bound to get hazy answers. Hell, it’s hard to remember 20 days ago for most folks. But when reminded of a particularly noteworthy event, the details around it come into focus.

There is one indisputable fact from this particular Sunday — no Twins reached base against Wells.

A lot of other details start to file into place when reminded of that fact. But the weird thing is that most people remember the weather from that day. It’s really strange, too, because it really isn’t all that notable. The official record for the game records the temperature as 59 degrees, overcast and breezy.




I remember that game very well. No idea about the weather though I do remember being parked in my car as he finished it.

There's been some really cheap no-hitters late in seasons with eliminated teams playing minor league line-ups and/or veterans only interested in getting to the airport.But this was a perfect game just entering the heart of the season.So, it's an accomplishment to say the least.But if I were Wells, I'd have the line score and a photo in my trophy case...not the box score.Here's why...

 

The Twins had 3 legitimate major league players in the lineup.Matt Lawton, 42-year-old Paul Molitor, and Ron Coomer.A fourth, if you want to count Marty Cordova,...but this was not 1995 RoY Cordova...this was I'm on my way out of the league Cordova, batting clean-up, on his way to a 10 HR, 84 OPS+ year.

 

The others 5 in the lineup?I bet not one Twin fan could name more than 2 without cheating.Pat Meares batting 9th and Brent Gates batting 2nd (for god's sake).Those were the easy ones.Alex Ochoa batting 6th.Javier Valentin batting 8th and catching.And something called Jon Shave batting 7th and playing 3rd base.

 

On the bench were Terry Steinbach, Otis Nixon, David Ortiz, and Todd Walker...the latter three sporting OBP's well above league average.Of course Ortiz and Walker were lefties.(Toiling in the minors, just a few months away from getting a taste, were Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz, Torii Hunter, and A.J. Pierzynski.)

After 20 years I doubt hardly any of us will remember more than a couple of guys on the current roster. Seeing their names in print is a big help. I remember the flow of the game very well but without prompting I couldn't name any of the players aside from Wells.