Wells muses on career, life on 'CenterStage'
Former Yankee addresses topics such as perfecto, childhood and Jeter
NEW YORK -- Ask David Wells what the biggest misconception about him is, and he'll tell you it's being labeled a "party guy." That may have defined parts of his 20-year big league career, but since retiring in 2007, Wells now considers himself a family man, and soon the head baseball coach for Point Loma High School, his alma mater in San Diego.
One thing that Wells persists in being, however, is outspoken, which is exactly what he was Tuesday morning at a taping of "CenterStage" with Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay in midtown Manhattan. The episode, featuring a retrospective of Wells' life and baseball career, will air in October on the YES Network.
"I told Michael, 'Why'd it take so long?' I like doing these things. I wish we had two hours to do it," said Wells.
Over the course of about 90 minutes, Wells expanded on his childhood, living in a beach town near San Diego with just his mother, whom he called an "Iron Man." The conversation then mostly explored his peaks and valleys with nine organizations, which included some fascinating and previously untold stories.
With the Yanks -- the team Wells said stays synonymous with his professional career -- the big lefty recalled throwing a perfect game on May 17, 1998; he had previously admitted he started it hungover, or as he put Tuesday, "comfortably numb." Wells said he was convinced to attend a "Saturday Night Live" afterparty the night before his start and didn't return home until 5:30 a.m. Six hours later, he was skipping curveballs 49 feet to Jorge Posada in a pregame warmups before he made history.
Even more intriguing were Wells' volatile relationships with coaches and management from his various teams. He said he "hated" former Blue Jays and Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, said he head-butted former Orioles manager Davey Johnson and got into a fistfight with former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. And while Wells claimed he loved late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he wasn't afraid to divulge that he told The Boss, "I'm going to beat the crap out of you," after Steinbrenner insulted the way Wells had pitched one day.
"I have a lot of memories, a lot of good things and bad things that people want to know," said Wells. "Some of the things that people don't realize [is] that they're your trials and tribulations about life. Mine [weren't] the best, but I made do with it and just had good people around me."
Later in Wells' career, during his second stint with the Blue Jays, he told general manager Gord Ash that he would quit unless he was offered an additional two years and $20 million in his contract. He wasn't bluffing, and soon Wells' agent called him saying his risky ultimatum had worked.
"Dude, you're crazy," Wells' agent had told him.
In some senses, Wells' career appeared antithetical to that of his former teammate, Derek Jeter, who Wells is looking forward to seeing Thursday night at Yankee Stadium in the final home game of the captain's career.
"Everything he did, he kept it clean," said Wells. "He interacted with everybody, but when you needed that big hit, there was Derek Jeter; you needed that big play, there's Derek Jeter."
Both players spent nearly identical years of service in the big leagues, but Wells didn't have the fortune of staying in one spot. So on Thursday, he hopes that the "Core Four" -- Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Jeter -- can reunite in a special way to help Jeter exit the field toward a retirement in warmer weather, just as Wells has enjoyed in San Diego.
"I wish I could have stayed in one place for that long -- that speaks volumes," said Wells. "Winding down, he's accomplished just about everything you can accomplish in the game. He doesn't need the money, [he] doesn't need the stardom. He already has that, so why not go out on top?"