Pat Meares’ fly ball settled in Paul O’Neill’s glove in right, and David Wells pumped the left arm that had just done perfect work against the Twins. Soon Darryl Strawberry, Willie Banks and Bernie Williams carried Wells off the field to the sound of cheers at old Yankee Stadium on May 17, 1998.
“Perfect games aren’t easy to come by,” Wells said on Thursday night. “There’s only 23 of them.”
Wells, some of his Yankees teammates from that day and manager Joe Torre were among the guests at Sony Hall in Manhattan for a happy 20th anniversary celebration — dinner, a roast, an auction and music, with proceeds set to benefit veterans via Wells and wife Nina’s Perfect 33 Foundation and to help Jorge and Laura Posada’s Puerto Rico Relief Foundation.
It was 27 up and 27 down on that Sunday afternoon for the second perfect game in Yankees history after Don Larsen’s gem in the 1956 World Series. David Cone followed with another one in 1999.
But Wells had spent much of the overnight hours before the game at a “Saturday Night Live” after-party. So the fun-loving lefty was running on little sleep and lots of coffee and water.
“You would never in a million years think that you’re going out hung over as [expletive] and go out and throw a perfect game,” said Wells, a 239-game winner who turns 55 on Sunday and says he’s in his final season as the head baseball coach at his alma mater, Point Loma High in San Diego.
“Your warmups are terrible. You’ve got your pitching coach [Mel Stottlemyre] telling you you’re doing good, and I’m telling him to shut up . . .
“You’ve got to be lucky to do those things. To me, it’s just amazing that it can happen, especially in the state of mind that I was in. For the first few innings, I was like, ‘Holy [expletive], how am I going to do this?’ It was a rough night . . . Joe always said, ‘That’s Boomer being Boomer.’ I think I overdid it. But it worked out, right?”
Cano suspension surprises ex-teammates
Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada sounded shocked at this event over Robinson Cano’s 80-game suspension Tuesday after testing positive for a prohibited diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for PEDs.
“Something like that, it took me by surprise,” Rivera said. “Robinson, when he came up with the Yankees, I took him under my wing and [taught] him everything. Sometimes we make mistakes . . . I would never, never say that he did it on purpose. Cano is a good boy.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Posada said. “ . . . Super sad. You’re talking about a Hall of Fame player. Robbie, for me, after Robbie Alomar, is probably the best second baseman in the game of baseball. It’s tough, tough news.”
1998 Yankees vs. 2018 Yankees
The current Yankees have the majors’ best record at 28-12. The 1998 Yankees won a then-AL record 114 games in the regular season and went on to win the World Series. Wells, who went 18-4 plus 4-0 in the postseason that year, isn’t ready to compare the 2018 Yankees with the 1998 team.
“Not yet,” Wells said. “The season isn’t over. It’s way too soon. At the end of the year, the record will speak for itself. But they’ve got a hell of a team right now.”
The Minnesota Twins’ lineup that went 27 up and 27 down against David Wells on May 17, 1998:
Matt Lawton CF
Brent Gates 2B
Paul Molitor DH
Marty Cordova LF
Ron Coomer 1B
Alex Ochoa RF
Jon Shave 3B
Javier Valentin C
Pat Meares SS