Greg Wells

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Note: Boomer Wells redirects here; for 1990s pitcher David "Boomer" Wells, click here.


Gregory De Wayne Wells

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Biographical Information[edit]

Greg (Boomer) Wells, a former pro football prospect, began his baseball career in 1976 with the independent Beeville Bees after spending a scant 12 days in the Pittsburgh Pirates system early that year. Wells hit .356/~.421/.478 that year, and finished third in the league in average while leading the Gulf States League with 114 hits.

Wells was signed by the Cleveland Indians that off-season but again lasted a short time with his new club, being released before appearing in a game for a Cleveland team. He was picked up by the expansion Toronto Blue Jays and assigned to their Utica Blue Jays club in the New York-Penn League and led the league with 68 RBI. He again was third in his circuit in average (.339) and slugged .584.

Boomer went to the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League in 1978 and moved up a spot in the average leaders, finishing second at .317/~.381/.476 and was named as the All-Star 1B. He was second in the FSL with 79 RBI and tied for third with 13 homers. In 1979 Wells hit 23 homers and drove in 92 while splitting the year between the Kinston Eagles and Syracuse Chiefs. He hit .356/~.409/.651 for Kinston and tied for sixth in the Carolina League with 10 homers despite playing only 37 games in that circuit. For Syracuse Greg batted .274/~.312/.439.

Returning to the Chiefs in 1980 the 26-year-old first baseman hit .263/~.307/.404 and surprisingly stole 10 bases in 11 tries. After having demolished the minors in his first four stops, Wells was struggling somewhat at AAA. He solved that level in 1981, hitting .292, slugging .494 and cracking 20 homers and stealing 20 bases. He was called up to the Blue Jays late in the year but struggled. Surprisingly, he failed to homer in 127 big-league at-bats. In 1982 he was shipped to the Minnesota Twins as the player to be named later in a deal for Hosken Powell. Boomer continued to crush AAA pitching, launching 28 homers (tied for third in the IL) for the Toledo Mud Hens, batting .336 (first) and driving in 107 runs, the most in the league. Greg again failed in a late-season shot in the majors.

Greg has offered two explanations for what happened in that off-season. In You Gotta Have Wa he says that Calvin Griffith had "his quota of blacks" and some good young players. Wells asked to be traded but Griffith refused and Boomer's agent said the choice was to go to AAA for a 6th year (he had played briefly for Syracuse in 1978) or go to Japan. In Remembering Japanese Baseball he said that he was playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League and was called by his agent, who told him he was sold to Japan. He confronted Griffith, who said that the deal was done and that Wells had to sign.

Either way, Boomer found himself in Japan in 1983 with the Hankyu Braves. He hit .304/.348/.471 his first year with Hankyu. In 1984 Greg switched his batting style and dazzled, hitting .355/.421/.641 with 37 homers and 130 RBI. Wells was leading in all three Triple Crown statistics when Hiromitsu Ochiai said it was improper for a foreigner to win the Triple Crown (none ever had in the history of Nippon Pro Baseball) and Ochiai, a former Triple Crown winner, said he would challenge Wells in homers. Wells said that only three of the five other teams would offer Greg hittable pitches while he accused his teammate, Yutaro Imai of throwing gopher balls to Ochiai. Ochiai finished with 33 homers, 4 behind Wells, who succeeded in becoming the first gaijin Triple Crown winner in Japan. He also led the league in hits (171), total bases (309) and slugging and won the Pacific League MVP award, becoming the third American to be so honored. He struggled in the Japan Series, though. Wells says "It was like somebody came and stole my timing" and there were rumors that the mob had bribed him to fail.

In 1985 a poll by the Asahi Shimbun found that just 4% of Japanese fans considered Wells the best player in the country; seven players had been ranked higher than the ranking Triple Crown champ. Wells hit .327/.370/.577 that season and led the PL with 26 doubles. He homered 34 times and drove in 122 but it paled in comparison to Ochiai's season as Hiromitsu took back the Triple Crown. Greg led the loop with 173 hits. 1986 again saw Ochiai run roughshod over the league while Boomer again was an All-Star at .350/.418/.654 with 42 homers and 103 RBI. He led in hits once more (173) and total bases (323) and made the Best Nine; he was second to Ochiai in the Triple Crown stats. Wells got into trouble early that year when he reported late because he had just had a daughter. In Japan this was not considered a reason to be late to work.

In 1987 Boomer missed the All-Star team but still hit .331/.379/.624 with 40 homers and 119 RBI. He led the league with 30 doubles and 320 total bases and led in slugging for the second time. He won his second straight Gold Glove, the only two he won in Japan, and made his third Best Nine. He also set a Pacific League record with 4 grand slams that season.

1988 saw Wells hit the longest homer in Japanese baseball history, smacking one pitch 531 feet, out of Nishinomiya Stadium and into an apartment building. He returned to the All-Star team but slipped to .289/.357/.466 and did not lead the PL in anything for the first time in five years.

At age 35, Boomer bounced back in 1989 with 101 runs, 40 homers, 124 RBI and a .322/.386/.584 line. He won his second batting title, led the league with 165 hits, drove in the most runners and made his fourth and last Best Nine. Ralph Bryant hit 9 more homers, though. Wells also grounded into 34 double plays, a Japanese record. He made his fifth and last All-Star team in Japan.

In 1990 Wells hit .307/.382/.479 in only 46 games (it was either a broken leg or a knee injury - he suffered both in Japan). The next year manager Toshiharu Ueda retired; Wells had gotten along well with him but not with successor Shozo Doi and was dropped in the order. He hit .300/.333/.486 with 20 homers. The 37-year-old slugger was frustrated with Doi and took a pay cut to sign with the Daiei Hawks instead. He batted .297/.319/.466 with 26 homers and a league-leading 97 RBI, his fourth RBI title in Japan and sixth overall. Manager Koichi Tabuchi had been a backer of Boomer, but he was replaced at the helm by Rikuo Nemoto, who told Wells to step aside in favor of a younger player. Wells retired at the age of 38 with a .317/.372/.555 line in NPB with 277 HR and 901 RBI. He is 4th in career average among players with 4,000 or more at-bats (as of 2005).

Sources: by Gary Garland, "Remembering Japanese Baseball" by Rob Fitts, "You Gotta Have Wa" by Robert Whiting

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