MVP Wells Is Baseball's Rebel

In the buttoned-down world of the New York Yankees -- no facial hair, no names on the backs of the uniforms -- David Wells is a baseball rebel.

And by the way, a pretty good pitcher, too.

He won 18 games -- one of them perfect -- during the regular season, followed that with a shutout of Texas in the first round of the playoffs, and then won two games against Cleveland to earn the MVP award of the American League championship series.

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  • After the Yankees beat the Indians 9-5 in Game 6 Tuesday night for a trip to the World Series, Wells was having a ball.

    "This is for every guy on the team," he said. "This is wonderful. The guys are wonderful. Darryl, you're wonderful."

    Teammate Darryl Strawberry, hospitalized after colon cancer surgery, was on Wells' mind. And so was the Yankees' next task -- the World Series.

    "We've got to look ahead now," he said. "Now is what it's all about. We've just got to play the baseball we've been playing."

    Wells almost certainl will be the Game 1 pitcher when the Series opens Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. He shut out Texas in the opener of the divisional playoff and shut out the Indians until the ninth inning of the AL series opener. He shrugged off a shaky start in the fifth game to pitch into the eighth inning, striking out 11 batters for the victory. He allowed five runs on 12 hits with 18 strikeouts in 15 2-3 innings for a 2.87 earned run average.

    When last seen on the mound,

    David Wells
    David Wells will likely be the Game 1 starter. (AP)
    Wells had manager Joe Torre laughing out loud and wrestling him for the baseball because he didn't want to come out of Game 5.

    "There's still time," he told Torre, even as reliever Jeff Nelson was making his way toward the mound. "There's still time to send him back."

    That's just not done. But in Wells' world, anything goes.

    "I try to get these guys going, one way or another," he said. "You don't get in this situation too often. If they have to be fired up, I'm going to do it."

    He pushes the envelope almost all the time. The no-hair rule doesn't mean no stubble, so the left-hander skips shaving a couple of days at a time before exposing his face to a razor. The Yankees have no complaints. Perfect games earn extra privileges.

    Wells' teammates call him Boomer, a tribute to his bulk. He pitches with the top two buttons of his jersey open, always tugging at his shirt and sleeves, looking like a guy trying to fit his big man's body into a tapered jacket.

    His musical taste runs to heavy metal and he's not shy about it. In the baseball shrine that is Yankee Stadium, opera star Robert Merrill sings the national anthem and Wells plays Metallica and Van Halen over his stereo in the clubhouse.

    Wells delights in Yankees history. He would have loved to wear Babe Ruth's No. 3 but with that number retired he settled for a double Babe -- No. 33. One time, he bought an old Ruth cap from a collector for $30,000 and wore it out to the mound before he was told to replace it with his own cap.

    Ask Torre about his disheveled left-hander who has tattoos of his mother and son on his back and arm and the manager shrugs, saying, "Boomer is Boomer."

    And right now, Boomer is a pennant playoff MVP.

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