by | May 26, 1993 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I am going into the air guitar business. I am getting in on the ground floor. Air guitars for sale. Air drums. Air bass. I figure by September, when David Wells is 38-1, I’ll be rich and I can retire.

What? That sounds farfetched? Excuse me. No. Finding a pitcher two days before the season starts, a pitcher who used to wear Coneheads and an earring and likes loud rock ‘n’ roll and plays a mean air guitar, finding that pitcher on the discard pile, signing him up, giving him a starter’s job — the last one in your rotation — then watching him win six of his first seven decisions, with an ERA smaller than an eggshell — now, that’s farfetched.

And it has happened.

He is 6-1.

All is Wells.

I have a nice six-string here for you.

“I’m in a groove right now,” said the eccentric pitcher, the new Prince of Wells, after beating the Red Sox, 4-1, Tuesday night, allowing just four hits. “I never expected this to happen so soon.”

“When was the last thing, besides baseball, you started this well?” he was asked.

He thought about it. He rubbed his roundish face and scratched his belly. Ice dripped from a bag on his left shoulder. He wore navy-blue boxer shorts and a sleeveless T- shirt. I know he is a professional athlete, but, to be honest, he looked a bit like a young Ralph Kramden.

“I know!” he said finally. “I caught the best tube of my life this off-season!”


He also surfs.

Maybe I’ll sell surfboards, too. If everybody had an ocean . . .

“Hey, catching a perfect tube is a lot like pitching in a groove,” Wells, 30, continued. “You want to stay back on the wave, just like you want to stay back on the game.

“Of course, you can’t pitch while you’re surfing. And you can’t surf while you’re pitching.”

Of course.


Is this guy for real? He is part Cy Young, part Nuke LaLoosh. He has spiky hair and a body that might be best suited for washing the car in the driveway
— were he not busy using it to post the second-best ERA in all of baseball. Wells is California cool, with a biker’s mentality. He has his own style. His own rhythm.

“What do you do to celebrate after a win?”

“I go home, try to calm down, listen to some Rush and Metallica, and jam out.”

Rush? Metallica? Calm down?

“Oh, yeah. I fall asleep to that stuff.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Rush and Metallica, let us simply say that, as music goes, they make Tipper Gore’s hair stand up straight.

But who cares? She’s probably not a Tigers fan. And Wells has been simply astonishing for the Tigers — especially because they acquired him for nothing, really, picking him up off waivers from Toronto. Sparky Anderson doesn’t usually take chances on guys with flaky reputations, and Wells had one of those. In their first meeting, in Oakland, Sparky told Wells he was giving him a chance to realize his dream: He was making him a starter.

“One more thing,” Sparky said.

“What’s that?” asked Wells.

“Leave your earring in California.”

“But Sparky. We’re in California.”

Earrings. I’m selling earrings, too. And he’s having fun, fun, fun

Hey, listen. This guy could be huge. He could be Wild Thing all over again. He likes motorcycles and practical jokes. His best friend is the lead singer in the group Chicago. He has his own language — above his locker is the phrase “Word Up” before his name, so it reads “Word Up Wells” — and he goes around saying things to teammates like, “How’s your whole?”

“How’s my hole?” they say.

“Yeah. How’s your whole . . . family?”

Word Up Wells.

I’m marketing that, too. I want his face on billboards. I want a cable show, “Surfing With The Wells Man.” You can talk all you want about the surprising Kirk Gibson and Chad Kreuter and Alan Trammell’s comeback and the never-ending offense and the balls that keep leaving the park. But when you sit down in that back room and tally up the numbers, it is Wells who personally can be traced to six wins for the Tigers, and three other nights that resulted in wins without his name alongside them.

That’s nine wins of the 28 the Tigers own. Unless my math is wrong, that is about one third.

I have a pink air guitar for you. Cheap.

“Hey, I’m having fun,” Wells admitted. “Last year in Toronto, we won the World Series, but I really didn’t have fun. Now I am.”

How much fun? Tuesday night he beat the Red Sox for the first time since 1989. He is averaging one walk per outing. His ERA is 1.83. That sounds like fun to me. Does that sound like fun to you?

How about an air surfboard?

“Right now I feel like I just had 10 cups of coffee,” Wells said, playing with the ice bag. “It’s a rush. I’m gonna go home and relax.”

Right. Put on a nice, soft tape of “Stairway to Heaven,” jump on the bed, and kick out the jams.

He’s 6-1. The Tigers are in first.

All is Wells.

Cowabunga, dude.


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