Position: Relief Pitcher
- Quinnipiac University
- Chicago Cubs (1993-1997)
- New York Mets (1997-2001)
- Philadelphia Phillies (2001, 2003)
- Colorado Rockies (2004)
- Houston Astros (minor league contract 2005, only played the month of March)
- Quinnipiac University all-time leader in strike-outs (single season)
- Highly-valued relief pitcher for much of his MLB career
- 3.93 career ERA, over 500 strikeouts
- Led the Mets in games played with 80 in 1999 and 77 in 2000.
- Helped the Mets reach the 2000 World Series
- Known for his outspoken nature, eccentric personality, and crazy superstitions
Wendell started his career in the minor leagues with the Atlanta Braves. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1991 and made his major league debut in 1993. He got of to a shaky start with the Cubs, but turned into a solid reliever for them from 1995-1997.
He was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the New York Mets late in the 1997 season. He posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22-14 record in 285 career appearances with the Mets and reached the 1999 and 2000 playoffs (including the 2000 World Series).
We Should Be GM’s highlights the decline of Wendell:
“In an effort to solidify their bullpen for a playoff run in ’01, the Phils traded Bruce Chen to the Mets for Wendell and Dennis Cook. Wendell, had posted a 3.51 ERA for the Mets before the trade. With the Phillies, however, Wendell was absolutely atrocious, giving up 21 hits and 13 runs in 15+ innings. He was 0-2, and the Phils lost the NL East by 2 games.”
Wendell is remembered as being one of the first to comment that Barry Bonds may have taken steroids. Speaking about the February 12, 2004 indictment of Bonds’ trainer Greg Anderson for allegedly distributing illegal performance-enhancing drugs to athletes, Wendell said:
“If my personal trainer, me, Turk Wendell, got indicted for that, there’s no one in the world who wouldn’t think that I wasn’t taking steroids.“I mean, what, because he’s Barry Bonds, no one’s going to say that? I mean, obviously he did it,” Wendell said. “(His trainer) admitted to giving steroids to baseball players. He just doesn’t want to say his name. You don’t have to. It’s clear just seeing his body.” (Wendell noting the fact that Bonds’ physical appearance suggested steroid use) (SF Gate)
During spring training, Bonds responded to Wendell’s comments:
“I heard about his comments. If you’ve got something to say, say it to my face,” Bonds said. “Don’t talk through the media.””I’m not worried about him. I’m not worried about anyone. I have a lot of respect for Turk Wendell. I have a lot of respect for every baseball player in this game,” he added. “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.” (Bonds to Wendell)
Ironically, Bonds delivered the message through the media during an on-camera interview in the San Francisco Giants dugout (wikipedia)
On April 8, 2001 the Montreal Expos led the Mets 10-0. Wendell was pitching and Vladimir Guerrero violated one of the “unwritten rules” in baseball. New York Times writer Murray Chass says “thou shalt not swing at a 3-0 pitch when your team has such a big lead”. The very next day Wendell hit Guerrero with a pitch. Guerrero took exception to the bean ball by Wendell. Wendell responded in the media by saying:
“If he doesn’t like it, he can freakin’ go back to the Dominican and find another line of work.” (The Sporting News)
On April 28, 2001, The Mets beat the Cardinals 6-5 and Mets’ reliever Turk Wendell was ejected for a pitch that sailed behind the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny. Wendell believed he shouldn’t have been ejected for the pitch and defended himself by bringing up the control problems of Cardinals’ pitcher Rick Ankiel:
“It’s a 1-1 pitch; why would I try to hit the guy?” Wendell said. “When Ankiel’s out there and he throws balls everywhere, why don’t they throw him out of the game?” When it was suggested that Ankiel’s problems are psychological, Wendell said: “It still jeopardizes the guy in the batter’s box’s career, life, well-being. I know he’s not trying to do it; I’m not trying to do it. It happens.” . . .” (The New York Times)
ESPN Baseball Analyst Peter Gammons noted that Turk Wendell wanted to play his last season in the Major Leagues for free:
“Turk insists that he will play the last year of his career for nothing. “I will play it for nothing because I’ve loved baseball all my life,” says Turk. “I want my last season to be a testament to the game. I only wanted a few things out of life — a wife, children, to play baseball and to hunt deer.”
Told that the players’ union will not allow him to play for free, Wendell said, “then I’ll drop out of the union when the time comes.” (Peter Gammons)
Wendell was known for having many eccentricities
Wendell would brush his teeth between innings (some claim that he brushed between every inning). While brushing, he often hid in the dugout, either by ducking behind objects or by facing the wall. How awesome is it to have an Upper Deck Card with Wendell brushing his teeth? (see picture)
Wendell insisted that the umpire roll the ball to the mound rather than simply throw it to him (If an umpire would ignorantly throw the ball to him, Wendell was known to let it go past him, or even to let it bounce off his chest, after which he would retrieve it from the ground).
Whenever he began a new inning, Wendell would turn and wave to the center fielder and wait for him to wave back before proceeding.
At the beginning of each inning, he would reportedly draw three crosses in the pitcher’s mound dirt.
Whenever his catcher stood, he would crouch down.
When entering or leaving the field, he would always take a tremendous leap over the baseline.
He would chew black licorice as an alternative to chewing tobacco.
He would forcefully slam his rosin bag onto the pitcher’s mound between outs.
He wore number 99, in honor of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the main character in the movie Major League (played by Charlie Sheen).
In 2000 he signed a contract worth $9,999,999.99.
He wore a necklace made from the claws and teeth of various animals he had hunted and killed.
While in the minor leagues, rumor has it that he drank only orange juice (no food or any other drink) on days he pitched. But he also claimed to drink four cups of coffee before each start.
He sometimes threw his glove into the stands when leaving a game.
(List of eccentricities compiled from NHB Baseball and Wendell’s Wikipedia page)
The Pro Sports Daily Forum and Chicago Cubs Forum have both recently brought up the topic of Turk Wendell and his eccentricities.
Here are some other athlete superstitions (Link)
In a great message board post on the Democratic Underground, users give their “MLB All Psycho Team”. Of course, Wendell makes some of the lists. There are some great ones listed: Howard Johnson, Carl Everett, Mackey Sasser, Mike Ivie, etc.)
Buy a Turk Wendell Game Worn New York Mets Jacket for $135 (Link)