David Wells, known more for his goofball antics than his pitching prowess, threw only the 13th perfect game in modern 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 perfect game since Kenny Rogers did it for Texas on July 28, 1994, against the Angels.
"Couldn't happen to a crazier guy, huh?" Wells said.The burly left-hander, three days short of his 35th birthday, pitched the first perfect game at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, and the first in regular-season history for the Yankees.
Wells and Larsen, along with both pitching perfect games at Yankee Stadium and being rough-and-tumble players, share another distinction - they both attended Point Loma High in San Diego.
"I knew that. I understand he's goofy, too," Larsen told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Idaho.
"I'm glad for him," said Larsen, who called Wells after the game.
Wells went to a three-ball count on four batters, coming back from a 3-0 count on Matt Lawton in the fourth.
Wells spent the bottom of the eighth inning 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.
He 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.
"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."
There had been 12 perfect games, including Larsen's gem, 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 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, an AL record.
Wells broke the AL mark of 33 straight outs shared by Steve Busby (1974 with Kansas City) and John Montague (1977 with Seattle). The major league record is 41 by Jim Barr of San Francisco in 1972 - Wells can break the mark in his next start at Boston.
Dwight Gooden pitched the last Yankees no-hitter, on May 14, 1996, against Seattle in New York. 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, who began his career 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 tradition. He once wore an actual Babe Ruth hat on the mound before manager Joe Torre made him take it off, and also wanted to wear Ruth's No. 3. Instead, Wells settled for No. 33.
"With the history of this ballclub and the stadium, it couldn't happen in a better place for me, growing up a Yankee fan," Wells said.
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.
The Twins hit few balls hard against Wells. Their best shot may have come with one out in the eighth when Ron Coomer hit a sharp one-hopper that second baseman Chuck Knoblauch knocked down. Knoblauch recovered and had plenty of time to throw out his former teammate.
Wells struck out Valentin looking at a full-count pitch in the third. He then came back from a 3-0 count to retire Lawton on a popup on a 3-1 pitch leading off the fourth.
In the seventh, Wells went to 3-2 on both Brent Gates and Paul Molitor, and retired both of them.
"Today we got to see a real workhorse type of pitcher do something really special," Twins manager Tom Kelly said. "He moved the ball inside, outside - the changeup was working good, the curveball was good. He kept us off-balance all day. Maybe two balls you could say were hit pretty hard and I'm stretching at that. He really dominated."
The Yankees scored took a 1-0 lead in the second when Bernie Williams scored from third on a wild pitch by LaTroy Hawkins (2-4). Williams hit a solo homer in the fourth - his third.
New York added two runs in the seventh on Darryl Strawberry's RBI triple and Chad Curtis' run-scoring single.
Notes: Torre said he was at Larsen's perfect game on Oct. 8, 1956. ... Wells is 111-86 lifetime in a career with Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Yankees. ... The Twins began the game with a team batting average of .255.