Seventeen years ago today, on the Seventeenth of May, 1998, David ‘Boomer’ Wells pitched the thirteenth perfect game in baseball history. He did it in Yankee Stadium, before 49,820 fans and he did it in just 2 hours and 40 minutes. The win brought his record for the year to 5-1 but, at the time, he had an earned run average of 4.45.
He struck out 11 batters while facing the minimum of 27 over nine innings as the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0. The win brought the Yankees record to 28 wins and 9 losses and left them 3 ½ games in first place in the American League East.
The Yankees, facing LaTroy Hawkins, who would later pitch for them, managed only six hits in the game. Offensively, it was the Bernie Williams Show for the Yankees as their center fielder doubled in the second inning, went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to put them ahead
In the fourth, with two outs, Williams hit the first pitch he saw for a homer to make it 2-0 and, in the seventh, he doubled and scored the Yankees third run when designated hitter Darryl Strawberry tripled to drive him in. Left fielder Chad Curtis singled to score Strawberry with the only other run of the game.
Remarkably, in his last start prior to this, on May 12, Wells had retired the last ten batters he faced, making it 37 batters in a row he had faced without allowing a base runner. The perfect game was the first by a Yankee pitcher since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. The perfect game occurred three days before his 35th birthday. He was born in Torrance, California on May 20, 1963.
In the 1998 American League Championship Series that year he won two games, pitching 15 2/3 innings, striking out 18 and giving up,just 5 runs against the Cleveland Indians. He won Games 1 and 5 and was named Most Valuable Player in the series. The Yankees went on to sweep the San Diego Padres in the World Series and Wells won Game 1.
He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1982 draft and made his major league debut for them , against the Yankees on June 30, 1987 and gave up nine hits and four runs in four innings getting the loss.
He played for nine different Major League teams, the Blue Jays, Yankees, Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, some of them more than once, from 1987 until 2007.
He made his last appearance at age 44, on September 28, 2007, as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, lasting six innings, giving up just two earned runs on seven hits, and getting the win against the San Francisco Giants.
He was in three World Series, two with the Yankees and one with the Blue Jays and was named to three All Star teams. In 1999 and 2000, he led American League pitchers in complete games with seven and nine.
Wells finished the 1998 season with a record of 18-4 and a 3.49 ERA in 214 innings pitched. The previous year, with the Yankees, he had won 16 and lost 10.
On February 18, 1999, the Yankees traded Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd to the Toronto Blue Jays for another pretty good pitcher, Roger Clemens.
In the next two years with the Jays, Wells was 17-10 and 20-8, the only time he won 20 games in his career. In the four year period from 1997-2000, he won 71 and lost 32. In his career, he won 239 and lost just 157.
David Wells had a long career in baseball but never had a greater moment than when Minnesota shortstop and number nine hitter Pat Meares flied out to Paul O’Neill in right for the last out of the perfect game seventeen years ago today.