Turk Wendell: 2000 NL Champion Mets Eccentric Relief Pitcher (1998 - 2001)

Steven John "Turk" Wendell was born on May 19, 1967, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the southwest part of the state of Massachusetts. His father Charles was a foreman for GE & also owned a variety store. His mother Bea was a homemaker taking care of Turk, his brother & four sisters.

Wendell grew up in the same town as former Mets & MLB reliever Jeff Reardon. Turk grew up a Red Sox fan & his hero was Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski.

Turk nickname: Turk said his grandfather gave him the nickname of Turk after one of his buddies, because he was always doing stupid rebellious things.

The six foot two, right-handed pitcher attended Quinnipiac College, setting single season strikeout & ERA records there. Wendell was then drafted in the fifth round of the 1988 draft by the Atlanta Braves.

He began his minor league career as a starter, going 11-11 in 1989 at both the A & AA levels. He
fell to 5-12 the next year moving into the bullpen as a relief pitcher. In September of 1991 he was traded with Yorkis Perez to the Chicago Cubs for Damon Berryhill and Mike Bielecki.

He debuted with the Cubs in 1993, pitching in just thirteen games over his first two seasons. He would spend parts of five seasons with the Cubs, becoming their closer by the 1996 season. That year he appeared in 70 games, with 18 saves, going 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA.

In 1997 the Cubs closer duties went Terry Adams, as Wendell fell to a 3-5 record in mid relief appearing in 52 games.

Trivia: In Mark McGwire's heyday, he faced Wendell eleven times going 0-10 with a walk & six strike outs.

Mets Career: In August of 1997 he was traded to the New York Mets along with Brian McRae and Mel Rojas for outfielder Lance Johnson, who was coming off a career year. (The Mets later sent Mark Clark and Manny Alexander to complete the trade.)

Wendell soon became a work horse reliever for Bobby Valentine, with good control & a good fastball. He also became popular with the Shea fans due to his zany antics. 

When he arrived in New York, his usual uniform number 13 was not available as it was Edgardo Alfonso's number. Turk chose the #99 because he thought it was cool. Not because of Chalie Sheen's #99 in the movie Major League, as many people stated.

Zany Antics, Superstitions & Strange Routines: Wendell wore a necklace around his neck made from teeth of various animals he had hunted down. 

Wendell would always leap over a foul line on his way to & fro the dugout.

He would wave to the centerfielder before each inning & wouldn’t start pitching until the outfielder waved back. He would start out each inning by drawing three crosses in the dirt on the pitcher’s mound. 

When his catchers would stand up in back of the plate, Turk would crouch down on the mound until the catcher squatted back in position.

Turk chewed black licorice because he disliked any kind of tobacco. Due to the licorice, he would hide in the corner of the dugout to brush his teeth between innings. 

For good luck he superstitiously leapt over the white base line on his way to the dugout. Turk would also have the umpire roll the ball to him instead of having it thrown back. If the ump did throw a ball back, he would let it hit him in the chest or have it pass him by.

Turk did not wear socks, saying they were useless, he later switched to high top sneakers rather than don socks.

His most famous trademark became him slamming down the rosin bag before getting set to pitch, drawing a huge cheer from the Shea Faithful. He said he did it for self-motivation & it stuck.

1997: On August 9th, Turk Wendell made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium, pitching one inning of an 8-3 loss to the Astros. On August 12th he pitched two scoreless innings, finishing up a loss to the Cardinals. On September 2nd Wendell pitched four innings in an interleague game against the Toronto Blue Jays although he gave up three runs, he earned a save in the 8-5 win. 

In 13 appearances he struck out ten & walked 14 in 16.1 innings for the Mets.    

1998: On Opening Day 1998 he came in the 13th inning of a scoreless game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched two scoreless innings & earned the victory when Alberto Castillo singled to drive in Brian McRae with the walk off win after a four hour & thirty-five-minute home opener.

Two days later he got another victory in another extra inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In that game short time Met, Richard Becker singled in Edgardo Alfonso with the walk off hit.

On April 12th, he served up a 6th inning three run HR to the Brewers Jose Valentin, but the Mets came back to earn him another victory.

 Although Wendell was a primarily middle reliever collecting four holds into August. On August 6th he finished off the 9th inning of a win over the Giants to get to 4-0. In 16 appearances that month (19 innings) he allowed just three earned runs lowering his ERA to 2.70 by the end of the month.

He would blow two saves in early September then collect three saves & two holds the rest of the way. 

On the year Wendell would make 66 appearances, finishing off 21 games. He was 5-1 with four saves, eleven holds and a 2.93 ERA. He struck out 54 walked 39 in 76.1 innings. 

1999 Mets Wild Card Season: On Opening Day, Turk allowed an earned run to the Marlins & got no decision in the 6-2 loss in Florida. 

After that game he would only allow one earned run over his next sixteen appearances, in 19 innings of work until May 10th. In that stretch he gathered up nine holds and kept his ERA at 1.57. On April 30th he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings against the Giants to earn his first save of the year. 

He did not allow his first HR until May 21st, then gave up five in June over a 12-game span.
On July 5th, he earned his second victory of the year in a 2-1 win over the Expos. On July 26th he collected his third save of the year coming in a 7-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That month he earned five more holds. On July 8th he gave up a HR to Montreal's Orlando Cabrera blowing his first save of the year. 

On August 10th he pitched a scoreless 7th inning at Shea against the Padres & was the winning pitcher when John Olerud broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the inning. On August 31st, he gave up a grand slam HR to Ken Caminiti in Houston taking the loss in a 6-2 game.

After two straight losses during the first week of September, he came back to earn wins in back-to-back outings in Colorado that following week. In the final two weeks of the season, he gave up two earned runs in nine appearances as the Mets went on to win the NL Wild Card.

Turk finished the year setting a Mets team record with 80 appearances, while getting credit for 21 holds amongst the tops in the NL. He went 5-4 with three saves & a 3.05 ERA. He struck out 77 batters & walked 37 in 85 innings pitched.

1999 Post Season: NLDS: In Game #1 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks he was the winning pitcher after pitching a scoreless 8th inning. The Mets Edgardo Alfonzo hit a 9th inning grand slam HR leading to the 8-4 win.

1999 NLCS: In the NLCS he earned another win against the Atlanta Braves when John Olerud singled home the winning runs off John Rocker in the 8th inning of Game #3 at Shea Stadium. 

Overall, in the 1999 post season he made seven appearances going 2-0 allowing three runs over seven innings pitched. He struck out five & walked six in 7.2 innings of work.

2000 Mets NL Championship Season: Turk began the year with an appearance in the Mets opening loss to the Cubs of the game played in Japan. The next day he pitched a scoreless 10th inning in the Mets eventual 5-1 win.

On April 20th, he pitched a scoreless 11th inning then got the win courtesy of Melvin Mora's walk off HR at Shea Stadium over the Brewers. On April 25th, he earned another win with a middle inning relief effort over the Reds. In April he was 2-0 with five holds in 16 appearances.

In May he had a rough start over a course of seven games, from the 1st to May 16th. It started on May 3rd, when he gave up a walk off HR to Jeff Kent in San Francisco. He then blew two saves & took another loss, when Colorado's Bubba Carpenter hit a top of the 11th inning HR off him at Shea.

On May 21st he earned a win at Shea Stadium, against the Arizona Diamondbacks finishing off a scoreless 9th inning. Two days later he earned another victory in San Diego after pitching two scoreless innings & striking out two Padres in a 5-3 win. On May 31st the long ball got him again, when former Met Kevin Elster hit a walk off HR off him for the Dodgers in LA. 

Wendell mopped up two Mets losses in June & earned a pair of holds. On July 3rd, the Marlins Derek Lee hit a walk off two run HR off him in a scoreless game for the 2-0 loss. But from there he would not blow a save or take another loss for over two months & 29 appearances. 

On August 17th he collected his fifth win of the year, matching his career high. On August 20th in Los Angeles, he pitched two innings & gave up a run but the Mets came back to earn him the victory as he reached a career high six wins. On August 28th he pitched two scoreless innings at Shea over the Astros to get his first & only save of the year.

He earned himself two more winning decisions over the last month as the Mets chased the Braves for the Eastern title & won the NL Wild Card title. In his final game of the regular season he earned a win over the Expos at Shea.

In the 2000 Mets Pennant season, Wendell finished with a career high eight victories, going 8-6 with one save, leading the team in appearances once again (77). He collected 17 holds & posted a 3.59 ERA. He struck out 73 batters in 82 innings of work. 

Charities: Turk also did a lot of charitable work with children in the New York area & won the New York Press' Good Guy Award for the 2000 season.

2000 Post Season:
In the 2000 post season he would appear in two games of each series. In the NLDS he came in Game #1 in the 6th inning with one out & the bases loaded in relief of Mike Hampton with the Mets don 5-1. He struck out the Giants Bobby Estalella & Livan Hernandez to get out of the inning.

In Game #3 at Shea, with Mets down 2-1 in the 7th inning, he relieved Dennis Cook with a runner on & two outs. He struck out Jeff Kent to end the inning. In the 8th, he struck out two Giants holding them down. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the inning & won it on Benny Agbayani's walk off HR.

2000 NLCS: In Game #2 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Turk entered the game in the 8th inning with the Mets ahead 5-4 with two & two outs. He gave up a double to pinch hitter J.D. Drew to tie up the score at 5-5. He intentionally walked slugger Mark McGwire then struck out Craig Paquette to end the St. Louis threat. The Mets scored a run in the 9th inning on Jay Payton’s RBI single and Turk ended up the winning pitcher.

In Game #3 he finished off the Mets 8-2 loss. It was his last appearance in the NLCS as the Mets won it in six games advancing to the World Series.

On the eve of the 2000 Subway World Series-
Quotes- Turk Wendell: " The A.L. New York team's Stadium, I don't give a hoot about it. We played there before." Growing up a Red Sox fan he said it would be a personal vendetta to knock them off. These words didn't help his team but motivated his opponents.

2000 World Series: In Game #1 of the World Series Armando Benitez blew a save in the 9th inning tying up the game. Wendell came on in the bottom of the 11th with two on & two outs getting Glenallen Hill to pop up.

In the 12th, after recording the first out, he gave up a single then a double & walked Paul O'Neil intentionally. Bobby Valentine stuck with him, but Wendell then served up the game winning base hit to former Met Jose Vizcaiano

In the Game #3 Mets win, Turk came on in the top of the 7th & struck out Vizcaino along with Orlando Hernandez. He then issued a walk & was removed for Dennis Cook.

Post Season Stats: Wendell pitched in two post seasons with the Mets going an overall 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He allowed four runs on six hits, striking out 14 batters & walking 10 in 12.2 innings pitched in 13 appearances.

After the Pennant: In December of 2000 he turned down offers from the Cubs & Orioles for more money to stay loyal to his team. He negotiated his contract to have as many 99's in it as possible, because he felt it was good luck. He signed a deal with incentives for $9,999,999.99.

2001: Wendell made 40 appearances going 4-3 with six holds & a 3.51 ERA into late July . On July 27th he was traded along with fellow reliever Dennis Cook to the Phillies for Bruce Chen & Adam Walker. 

Mets Career Stats:
In his five seasons with the Mets, he was 22-14 with ten saves & a 3.34 ERA. He never posted a losing record. He made 285 Mets appearances (12th all time in Mets history) with 55 holds, striking out 259 batters & walking 147 in 312 innings.

The Steroid Era: Wendell was always outspoken & never afraid to speak his mind. When asked if he thought Barry Bonds & Sammy Sosa used steroids, he said yes. He also said everyone in baseball; players, coaches, managers & owners all knew about steroid use. He spoke out against steroid use and believed everything in Jose Canseco’s controversial book “Juiced”.

The Outspoken Turk: In 2001, he hit Vladimir Guerrero with a fastball saying; “If he doesn’t like it, he can freak’ go back to the Dominican and find another line of work." Less than a month later, he was ejected from a game against the St. Louis Cardinals for throwing behind catcher Mike Matheny. 

After the game, he told the media "When Rick Akiel is out there throwing balls everywhere, why don't they throw him out of the game?"

In 2010 he told the Daily News he believes there should be a worldwide draft in baseball. He also said it to former Players union president Donald Fehr.

 “These kids are coming over from Japan, Cuba or wherever and they’re giving them $30 million, and they’ve never set foot in a minor league facility. They’ve just robbed every kid in Triple-A that’s competing for that spot.”

Post Mets Career: After his Mets days his career was plagued by injuries, even missing the entire 2002 season. He went 3-5 in those last three seasons, finishing up his career in Colorado with Rockies in 2004. 

Career Stats: In his 11-year career, he went 36-33 with 33 saves, posting a 3.93 ERA with 515 strikeouts & 324 walks in 645 innings pitched making 552 appearances.

Family: Turk married Barbara (McLoone) in February 1997, they have a daughter- Dakota & a son Wyatt. The two divorced in 2009.

In 2006 he visited the Troops in Afghanistan as part of MLB’S Heroes of the Diamond tour. He says he was so inspired by that trip he tried to enlist but was denied because he is color blind.

Wendell owned & ran Wykota Ranch, a 200-acre hunting and fishing camp in Larkspur, Colorado. 

In 2019 he moved back to the state he loves most Iowa. He owns 47-acre Wykota farm in Adel Iowa & leases another 120 acers there as well. 

The name Wykota is a combination of his two kids' names, Wyatt & Dakota.

Quotes- Turk Wendell: "There's only a couple of things I wanted in life. I wanted to have a family. I wanted to pitch in the big leagues & I wanted to have some land."


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