Turk Wendell

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Turk Wendell
Turk Wendell Iraq crop.jpg
Born: (1967-05-19) May 19, 1967 (age 48)
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
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 36–33
Earned run average 3.93
Strikeouts 515

Steven John "Turk" Wendell (born May 19, 1967) is a former Major League Baseball right-handed relief pitcher who played on four National League teams 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.

Professional beginnings[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 in a start against the Cardinals. Wendell started three more games in 1993 and appeared as a reliever in three others, finishing the season 1-2 with a 4.37 ERA. The following season, which was cut short by a strike, Wendell had two starts and four relief appearances and finished the year 0-1 with an 11.93 ERA.[2]

Becoming established relief pitcher[edit]

After the 1994 season, Wendell moved permanently to the bullpen and began making regular relief appearances for the Cubs. His best year for the Cubs came in 1996, when he appeared in 70 games, recording 18 saves and a 2.84 ERA. Toward the end of the 1997 season, Wendell was traded to the New York Mets, where he spent four and a half seasons. As a Met, Wendell posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22-14 record in 285 appearances. He led the team in games pitched in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Wendell appeared in the playoffs twice, in 1999 and 2000, and pitched in the 2000 World Series against the Yankees.[3]

In both Chicago and New York, Wendell became well-known for his many quirky habits and superstitions, including jumping over the foul lines on his way to and from the mound, brushing his teeth between innings, slamming the rosin bag into the mound before facing batters and chewing black licorice. His unique on-field personality made him popular among both Cubs and Mets fans.[4] [5]

Plateau and decline[edit]

In the middle of a disappointing 2001 season, the Mets traded Wendell and fellow veteran reliever Dennis Cook to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Bruce Chen and a minor league prospect. "You can't take the heart of your bullpen out of there without thinking they're throwing in the towel,' Wendell said regarding the Mets' decision.[6] Wendell also expressed excitement at the opportunity to join the Phillies, who were in the midst of an ultimately unsuccessful playoff race at the time. "It's kind of sad to leave a place you're comfortable with, but we're going into a situation where we have a chance to be a part of something very special," Wendell said. "That's what we all work for from the first day of spring training. It's kind of like a new life."[7]

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.[3]

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 posted a 7.02 ERA in 12 games before getting sent down to Colorado's Triple A affiliate for a rehab stint, where he similarly pitched poorly in 12 games. The Rockies released Wendell at the end of July. [8]

Wendell signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros in early 2005, but failed to earn a spot on the team's major league roster in spring training, after which he retired. “It was never stated or announced," he later said.[8]

Notable Statements[edit]

Wendell repeatedly denounced steroids in baseball and the players he suspected of using them. As a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies in 2004, Wendell became the first major leaguer to publicly accuse Barry Bonds, whose trainer had just been indicted for providing steroids to players, of using performance enhancing drugs. "It's clear just seeing his body," Wendell told the Denver Post.[9] Bonds reacted, telling reporters, "If you've got something to say, say it to my face. Don't talk through the media."[10] In March 2006, Wendell was quoted by the suburban Chicago Daily Herald as saying 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.[11] 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.

In a 2010 interview, Wendell ridiculed excuses and apologies from stars who admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. “When Mark McGwire said he wished he had never played in this era, that [ticked] me off because he had the same choices I did,” Wendell said. “He didn’t have to take a shortcut and cheat like that. If he feels that badly about it, give the owners back the money that he took from them."[12]

In early 2001, after Vladimir Guerrero (then playing for the Montreal Expos) took exception to being hit by Wendell, Wendell remarked, "One of the ways to get him out is pitching inside and if he can’t handle being pitched inside, he should go frickin’ back to the Dominican and find another line of work.” [13]

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 referred to Cardinals' pitcher Rick Ankiel, whose mysterious loss of control would soon end his pitching career."When [Rick] Ankiel is out there and he throws balls everywhere, why don't they throw him out of the game?"[14]

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!"[15]

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." 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."[16]

Charitable Work[edit]

Wendell was recognized for significant charity work during and after his career.[5] Wendell was given the "Good Guy Award" by the New York Press Photographers Association in 2000. [17]

In October 2006, he visited troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the "Heroes of the Diamond Tour." He said he was so inspired by the trip that he enlisted in the Army upon return but was denied active combat duty eligibility because he is color-blind. [12]


Wendell owns Wykota Ranch,[18] a 200-acre hunting and fishing camp in Larkspur, Colorado [19]


  1. ^ Top 10 Most Superstitious Athletes
  2. ^ "MLB.com: Turk Wendell Statistics". 
  3. ^ a b "Turk Wendell". Baseball Reference. 
  4. ^ Reaves, Joseph (June 9, 1994). "Wendell’s ‘Best Friend’ Makes It Big". Chicago Tribune. 
  5. ^ a b Snyder, John (2011). Met’s Journal: Year by Year and Day by Day with the New York Mets Since 1962. Clerisy Press. p. 240. 
  6. ^ Kepner, Tyler (July 29, 2001). "Are the Mets finished, or merely refinishing?". New York Times. 
  7. ^ Kepner, Tyler (July 28, 2001). "The Mets make a move by trading Wendell". New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b Costello, Rory (January 26, 2014). "Baseball Biography Project: Turk Wendell". Society for American Baseball Research. 
  9. ^ Schulman, Henry (February 26, 2004). "Rockies pitcher accuses Bonds". SFGate. 
  10. ^ "Bonds fires back at comments by Wendell". New York Times. February 26, 2004. 
  11. ^ Wendell says Sosa obviously did steroids. Retrieved May 14, 2007
  12. ^ a b Kernan, Kevin (May 8, 2010). "Former Met loves ranch life, hates ‘roids". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Marchand, Andre (April 9, 2001). "Wild Turk tears into ‘Chicken’ Guerrero". New York Post. 
  14. ^ Kepner, Tyler (April 29, 2001). "Hit batter provides jolt that gives Mets a pulse". New York Times. 
  15. ^ Torre, Joe and Verducci, Tom. "The Yankee Years". Doubleday, 2009, p. 125 and 140.
  16. ^ Gammons, Peter (July 15, 2000). "Howard Johnson’s got his HOJO workin’". ESPN.com. 
  17. ^ "Good Guy and Good Gal Awards". New York Press Photographers Association. 
  18. ^ Wykota Ranch
  19. ^ New York Post: Former Met loves ranch life, hates ’roids

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