May 20, 2005

Wells's Comments About Cleveland Hecklers

Following up on the comments to my post about David Wells complaining about Cleveland fans at Jacobs Field talking trash about his mother, I found the story that ran in the New York Times on October 12, 1998. The game in question was Game 5 of the 1998 ALCS. The series was tied 2-2.

From Jack Curry's article, which was headlined "Fine Pitching By Wells Is The Best Revenge":
The Yankees gift-wrapped a 3-0 lead for Wells during a lucky top of the first today, and were privately expecting him to take the cushion, run with it and usher them back to New York in command of the American League Championship Series. Give us a smooth ride this afternoon, Boomer, and it will be a smooth flight tonight, the Yankees silently asked their burly pitcher.

But there was nothing smooth about the bottom of the first for Wells. Later, he revealed the reason: Some Cleveland fans had screamed disparaging remarks about his mother, Euegnia Ann, as he warmed up in the center-field bullpen. Suddenly, Wells was thinking about his mother instead of Kenny Lofton, the Indians' leadoff hitter. The words seeped in and hurt. ...

Wells was unnerved as he thought about the woman who was known as Attitude Annie; the woman who died of heart disease on Jan. 4, 1997 at the age of 58, and the woman to whom he prays before each start.

"When you get a bunch of clowns out there that start talking about your mother and not knowing that my mom passed away, it really bothered me," Wells said. "What got me more was some kids out there started to do the same thing. I was in awe out there because I couldn't believe that could happen. ...

"I can deal with a lot of negative stuff out there, but when it involves my mom or any one of my family members, it really bothers me," Wells said. "So to those idiots out there, this one is for you."
Indeed, Wells was not focused on Lofton. The Cleveland center fielder hit a home run. Then Omar Vizquel singled, Travis Fryman singled, Vizquel stole third, Fryman went to second on a wild pitch and Manny Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly. Fryman stole third and Jim Thome walked before the inning ended. ... Wells settled down after that. New York won the game 5-3 and beat Cleveland in Game 6 to win the pennant.

And that is pretty much how I remember Wells's reaction. Another story in the Times, by beat writer Buster Olney, noted that Wells did not say anything to the fans as he warmed up before the game. So, outside of expressing his disgust and anger about it four or five hours later, there was no real reason for Wells to bring it up. Perhaps he made his comments in response to why he struggled in the first inning, I don't know. ... Nevertheless, players (especially pitchers in the bullpen and outfielders) hear a lot of comments from the stands -- and they don't usually make a habit of talking about those comments to the media after the game.

Sidenote: On October 4, 1997, exactly nine months after his mother's death, and one year before the game in question, Wells pitched Game 3 of the ALDS at Cleveland. The Yankees won 6-1. No one mentioned to the Times that Wells had been heckled (though I'm sure he was).

Second Sidenote: Wells saying he was "in awe" that kids could say such mean things is pretty hilarious, considering the stuff I have heard at Yankee Stadium during Red Sox games.


Earl said...

Well, there you go -- he spoke a lot more about it than I remember. Thanks for looking that up (I was unable to find any more details -- how'd you get access to that old NYT article?). I still say the comment "the Jacobs Field fans were -- cue whiny voice -- making fun of his mommy" was unduly harsh, but that's just my opinion. And yes, there's absolutely a great deal of hyprocrisy in any Yankee complaining about the behavior of other fans.

redsock said...

One of the benefits of SABR membership is access to the ProQuest Historical Newspapers digital archive, which has over 100 years of archives of the NY Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post.

I haven't taken advantage of this very much, though I did use it to find that Manny Ramirez high school photo that I posted recently.

L-girl said...

there's absolutely a great deal of hyprocrisy in any Yankee complaining about the behavior of other fans.

Boy is that ever true. I routinely hear from Yankee-fan friends how awful Red Sox fans are. They make it sound like the Yankees take their lives in their hands every time they step foot in Fenway. It's completely absurd.

Having been in both parks a lot, I think the fans are pretty much the same. While the Yankees were great in the late 90s, Yankee fans seemed much worse - all that arrogance. Red Sox fans OTOH seem worse in what they do to opposing players ("Where's Roger?" comes to mind).

But Yankee fans are always calling the kettle black.