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Wells Celebrates Perfection

May 19, 1998

WILTON, Conn. (AP) _ David Wells’ mood was less than perfect Monday. But then he made another perfect pitch.

After a night out in Manhattan to celebrate his perfect game, the Yankees left-hander was a bit grumpy when he pulled his black BMW into a country club, an hour late for a charity golf event.

He seemed to come back to life after a perfect pitch, so to speak, at No. 9 on the Rolling Hills Country Club course. After his approach shot fell about 45 feet short of the pin, Wells lofted a shot toward the green with his wedge, and it rolled in for an eagle.

``Pick it up. We’re done here,″ Wells said to one of his partners waiting to line up a putt of about 15 feet.

After avoiding reporters, he agreed to entertain questions after the eagle.

Of course he had gone carousing with some of his teammates.

``You’ve got to go out and celebrate something like that,″ he said.

And like the crowd at Yankee Stadium, the patrons at Dorian’s Red Hand Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side _ among them Mets catcher Todd Pratt _ gave Wells a standing ovation when he walked in the door, according to reliever Graeme Lloyd, who arrived with Wells but played in a different group.

``It was a long night, but fairly tame,″ Lloyd said, adding that David Cone also helped Wells celebrate, along with a couple of other players he couldn’t remember.

Wells, who drank Dom Perignon with Cone and third baseman Dale Sveum later that night in Chinatown, became the 13th pitcher in modern major league history to throw a perfect game, beating Minnesota 4-0 Sunday.

He didn’t appreciate being tailed all night by reporters. But he does appreciate the attention he is getting from New York City and Yankees fans.

``When you do something like yesterday, they acknowledge it,″ he said. ``That’s what makes it such a great city. I don’t think I’ll ever come down.″

When he first arrived at the golf tournament, Wells made it clear he didn’t want to be bothered by reporters.

``I’m going to have to golf now. I’m late,″ he said, tersely excusing himself as he pushed past a TV reporter blocking his car door.

But by the time Wells reached the turn, his mood seemed to come around. And then he left early, to get back to New York in time to tape ``The Late Show with David Letterman.″

Letterman asked Wells about the congratulatory phone call from owner George Steinbrenner. Wells dropped his voice to a deep Steinbrennian bass and boomed: ``Good job, Dave!″

Later, Letterman referred to Steinbrenner as a ``nosebleed″ and talked about the possible move from Yankee Stadium. Wells would not be drawn into that debate except to say, ``If they move it, they’d better build an exact replica.″

Wells said the Letterman appearance shook him more than the perfect game. ``I was more nervous today,″ he said. ``It’s a great honor to come on this show.″

The Carl Rosen Celebrity Golf Classic, an annual tournament that benefits the Leukemia Society of America, was scheduled for an 11 a.m. shotgun start. Organizers waited 45 minutes for Wells before teeing off without him.

Donning a black cap with a ``No Fear″ logo and dark shades that helped hide any evidence of postgame revelries, Wells was shuttled to the first tee to meet the rest of his fivesome.

He could be seen and heard clowning around with his playing partners, and signing his name for autograph-seekers of all ages. Since the event was not widely publicized, requests were limited to mostly kids of participants and country club staffers.

But Wells deliberately kept the media at a distance, first by sending golf pro Joe Bostic with a message that he would have nothing to say, then by enlisting the help of a police officer to keep reporters and photographers away.

``He said, `I had a rough night last night and I want to be left alone,‴ Bostic said, clearly not comfortable being caught in the middle. ``I would definitely give him his space.″

Wells struck out 11 batters in the first perfect game at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series.

``I’ve played with and managed some pretty good pitchers. ... He flirted with it a couple of times,″ manager Joe Torre said. ``He was on a mission.″

Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, whose son died of leukemia three years ago, was host of the tournament. After Sunday’s game, Stottlemyre made sure Wells had the directions to get to Rolling Hills.

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