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On This Date in Sports May 17, 1998: David Wells is Perfect

David Wells has the game of his life tossing a Perfect Game as the New York Yankees blanked the Minnesota Twins 4-0 at Yankee Stadium. Bernie Williams supplies the offense for the Yankees, scoring three runs, sparked by a double and a home run. Wells, a heavy partier outside the lines, later admits he was hungover on the day of his historical moment.

David Wells was born on May 20, 1963, in Torrance, California. Despite growing up in Southern California, he always dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a fan of Babe Ruth, perhaps seeing a little of himself in the rotund star who died in 1948.

The Toronto Blue Jays drafted David Wells in the second round of the 1982 MLB Draft. He made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1987 but spent much of the next five years splitting time between AAA and the majors. He was a part of Toronto’s first World Championship team in 1992 but was released the following spring. Signing with the Detroit Tigers, Wells began to turn things around and was viewed as a crafty lefty when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for the 1995 pennant race. The following season saw David Wells play a crucial role in leading the Baltimore Orioles to the ALCS.

After becoming a free agent, David Wells realized a dream come true when he signed with the Yankees. With the Yankees, David Wells wore #33 in honor of Babe Ruth and wore a hat once used by the Bambino in a game against the Cleveland Indians. Often inconsistent throughout his career, Wells began to succeed in the Bronx, pitching on a team at the dawning of a dynasty.

It was a packed house at Yankee Stadium on a Sunday afternoon, as the Yankees had a beanie baby giveaway. David Wells was 4-1 going into the game, as the Yankees were in first place at 27-9 under Joe Torre. The Minnesota Twins, meanwhile, were rebuilding at 18-23 under longtime manager Tom Kelly, with LaTroy Hawkins at 2-3 getting the start. David Wells quickly mowed through the Twins in the first two innings. Meanwhile, after a leadoff double, Bernie Williams scored the Yankees' first run on Wild Pitch. 

Wells began to find his groove in the third as he struck out the side. The Yankees would get a second run in the fourth inning on a two-out homer from Williams. David Wells continued to tally up the strikeouts as the Twins were helpless to get anything off the Yankees' hefty lefty. In the seventh, the Yankees added two more runs as Bernie Williams had his second double and scored on a triple by Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry would later score on a single by Chad Curtis. After Dan Naulty and Greg Swindell handled the eight for Minnesota, Wells took the mound looking for history, having retired the first 24 batters. Jon Shave flew to right. Javier Valentin would be David Wells' 11th strikeout, setting the stage for Pat Mears. Mears would hit a short fly to Paul O’Neill, who squeezed it for the 27th out to complete the perfect game.

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David Wells would have the best season of his career in 1998, posting a record of 18-4 with a 3.49 ERA as the Yankees won the World Series.