David Wells overshadowed Beanie Baby Day at Yankee Stadium with a perfect game
David Wells carved out a Yankees legacy by riding his durable left arm to multiple 200-inning campaigns that were often followed by equally sterling postseasons. He could unleash a dazzling curveball at will, and opposing hitters rarely resisted the temptation to swing through it.
That hook was never better than against the Twins on May 17, 1998. The Yankees would go on to win 114 games that year, and they already looked unstoppable with a 28-8 record. Despite that early success, though, many of the fans at Yankee Stadium that day were there for something else entirely: It was Beanie Baby Day in the Bronx, and the giveaway to anyone 14 and under was a white bear named Valentino. (Lest you think we're exaggerating, allow us to point out that the 1990s treated Beanie Babies like long-term investments -- and if you want to buy a Valentino now, you'll have to spend several hundred dollars.)
Still, it didn't take long for Wells to become the main attraction -- he retired the first nine batters in a row and struck out the side in the third:
Wells worked quickly, and before too long, he was perfect through five. Then six. Then seven.
The Yankees knew what was going on, so to avoid the often-discussed jinx, manager Joe Torre and fellow starter David Cone tried to remain as still as possible on the bench:
Wells wasn't willing to play along, though. The normally-chatty lefty couldn't stand being ignored in the dugout, figuring that it would only make him more anxious. So, Cone walked over to Wells and cracked a joke: "I think it's time to break out the knuckleball."
Wells had a good laugh, then went back to work. He needed a bit of good fortune in the eighth, when Ron Coomer's smash to second was briefly muffed by Chuck Knoblauch, who could only knock it down. Coomer was not known for his speed, though, so Knoblauch was able to recover and throw him out:
By the ninth, the kids at the ballpark had all eyes on Wells and were pumped up to see history, Beanie Babies in hand:
The last hope for the Twins was Pat Meares, who lifted a fly ball to Paul O'Neill in right field. He squeezed it for the final out and Wells was ecstatic:
It was the 15th perfect game in baseball history and the Yankees' second after Don Larsen, who happened to be Wells' fellow Point Loma High School graduate. (Cone joined them one year later.)
To celebrate, Wells' teammates carried him off the field, leading to one last iconic image as he thrust his cap into the air: