Turk Wendell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Turk Wendell
Turk Wendell Iraq crop.jpg
Pitcher
Born: (1967-05-19) May 19, 1967 (age 46)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 17, 1993 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
May 13, 2004 for the Colorado Rockies
Career statistics
Win–Loss 36–34
Earned run average 3.93
Strikeouts 515
Teams

Steven John "Turk" Wendell (born May 19, 1967 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, United States) is a former Major League Baseball right-handed relief pitcher from 1993 to 2004.

Wendell was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1988 (a 5th round selection) and made his professional debut with the Pulaski Braves of the Appalachian League in June 1988. He made his first major league appearance on June 17, 1993.

Wendell was named the most superstitious athlete of all time by Men's Fitness.[1]

College career[edit]

Wendell attended Quinnipiac University, where he is among the school's all-time leaders in strikeouts (single season) and earned run average. Wendell played his summer baseball during college with the independent Dalton Collegians and with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League.

Major league career[edit]

Wendell was a relief pitcher who threw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider, and a change-up. Wendell was commonly seen as having above-average control, average movement, below-average power, and a good pick-off move.

Rocky start[edit]

Wendell was traded by the Braves to the Chicago Cubs in 1991, and pitched in their minor league system for two years before making his major league debut in 1993. Wendell got off to a rocky start, pitching in only 13 games in the 1993 and 1994 seasons combined, posting a 1-3 record and a 7.30 ERA.

Becoming a solid reliever and fan favorite[edit]

From 1994 on, however, Wendell improved to a 3.88 ERA in 187 game appearances for the Cubs. Toward the end of the 1997 season, Wendell was traded to the New York Mets, where he spent three and a half seasons. Wendell was extremely well liked by Mets fans, given his friendly personality, sense of humor, outspoken nature, and frequent antics (see below).

In his Met career, spanning over five seasons, Wendell posted a solid 3.34 ERA and a 22-14 record in 285 appearances. He led the team in games pitched in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

As a Met, Wendell appeared in the playoffs twice, in 1999 and 2000, including an appearance in the 2000 World Series.

Plateau and decline[edit]

In mid-2001, Wendell was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent the remainder of the season. After missing the entire 2002 season due to an elbow injury, Wendell returned to pitch in 56 games for the Phillies in 2003, with a 3-3 record and a 3.38 ERA.

After the 2003 season, Wendell became a free agent, and was not re-signed by the Phillies. Instead, Wendell signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies, where he spent an injury-plagued season moving back and forth between the major league squad and various minor league rehab assignments. Wendell was released by the Rockies toward the end of the 2004 season.

Wendell signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros in early 2005, but was unable to earn a spot on the team's major league roster in spring training, and announced his retirement in March 2005.

Speaking his mind[edit]

Wendell made a name for himself not only through his pitching and personality, but through his outspoken nature as well. One of the most notable examples came in 2004, during the heart of the public debate over Major League Baseball's steroid problem. When asked about Barry Bonds, one of the most controversial figures in the debate, Wendell said that Bonds "obviously" took steroids, noting the fact that Bonds's trainer had admitted to giving steroids to baseball players and that Bonds's physical appearance strongly suggested steroid use. Bonds responded aggressively, telling Wendell, "You got something to say, you come to my face and say it and we’ll deal with each other. Don’t talk through the media like you’re some tough guy."

This was not the first time Wendell had been known to ruffle some people's feathers, however. In early 2001, after Vladimir Guerrero (then playing for the Montreal Expos) took exception to being hit by Wendell, Wendell remarked, "If he doesn't like it, he can freakin' go back to the Dominican and find another line of work."

Less than a month later, Wendell was ejected from a game against the St. Louis Cardinals for throwing behind batter Mike Matheny. After the game, Wendell asked rhetorically, "When [Rick] Ankiel is out there and he throws balls everywhere, why don't they throw him out of the game?"

On the eve of the 2000 World Series between the Yankees and the Mets, Wendell is quoted as having said "Yankee Stadium? I don't give a hoot about it. We've played there before. It won't be a surprise. The Yankees have tortured us for years and years, and beating them would be sweet for me." During the Yankees celebration of their win, it is reported that every five minutes, someone would call for a toast "To Turk Wendell!"[2]

In numerous interviews, Wendell repeatedly told reporters that he wanted to play his last season in baseball for free. "I want my last season to be a testament to the game," said Wendell. "I only wanted a few things out of life -- a wife, children, to play baseball and to hunt deer." When he was informed that the Players Association (the union for major league players) would not allow him to play for free, Wendell said, "Then I'll drop out of the union when the time comes."

In March 2006, Wendell was quoted by the suburban Chicago Daily Herald as believing that former Cubs teammate Sammy Sosa "of course" used steroids. Wendell alleged that Sosa's home run totals increased significantly only after he began using steroids.[3] He also stated that "everybody in baseball" (including coaches, managers, and owners) knew about steroid use by players such as Sosa, and that he agreed with the information in José Canseco's book Juiced.

Contributions off the field[edit]

Wendell was also well renowned for doing a substantial amount of charity work during and after his career. Wendell was particularly dedicated to working with children through various organizations. Despite his explicit desire to not receive media coverage of his volunteer efforts (Wendell stated that he didn't want any recognition or notoriety for what he did), Wendell was given the "Good Guy Award" by the New York Press Photographers Association in 2000, in honor of his considerable contributions.

In October 2006, he visited troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the "Heroes of the Diamond Tour."

Post-career[edit]

Wendell owns Wykota Ranch,[4] a 200-acre hunting and fishing camp in Larkspur, Colorado [5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Top 10 Most Superstitious Athletes
  2. ^ Torre, Joe and Verducci, Tom. "The Yankee Years". Doubleday, 2009, p. 125 and 140.
  3. ^ Wendell says Sosa obviously did steroids. Retrieved May 14, 2007
  4. ^ Wykota Ranch
  5. ^ New York Post: Former Met loves ranch life, hates ’roids

External links[edit]