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David Wells celebrates 20th anniversary of perfect game at star-studded fundraiser

It was a perfect event to celebrate a perfect afternoon 20 years ago.

On Thursday, May 17, former New York Yankees pitcher David Wells was honored in the Sony Theater Hall, 235 West 46th Street in Manhattan, as his former teammates, family and friends commemorated the 20th anniversary of the day that “Boomer” threw just the 15th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

The star-studded event included future National Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, and other Yankee greats such as Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, David Cone and former manager Joe Torre. “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon also made an appearance.

Proceeds from the celebration, which included dinner and entertainment, benefited Wells’ Perfect 33 Foundation, which was formed to support young athletes and military families.

For Wells, the event was a special one for many reasons, especially since some of the money raised also went to Posada’s foundation which is helping mend Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

“(This night) means the world,” he said, not only because of the opportunity to celebrate his feat but also because the event enabled him to “bring back some of my ex-teammates and some great, interesting people like Lorne Michaels.”

He also discussed fan reaction after all the years.

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“The love when I come back into New York has been great from the fans,” he said. “Just to have this opportunity to do an event for Jorge and for my Perfect 33 foundation,” which gets veterans “the care that they need because they’re so proud. We are going to try to save some lives and make sure when they transition out, they got a place to go and they’re focused. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last three years.”

“It’s a great cause,” said Cone. “Boomer has done great work with his foundation for a lot of different causes. He works with the Navy SEALS, PTSD and the Diabetes Foundation.”

Posada was also happy to show up and help out his cause.

“We just came back from Puerto Rico today,” he said. “We were down there for another event trying to do more things for the island. People still need help. Eighteen percent still don’t have electricity and there is complete devastation in some places.”

“This night means a lot because, the past many months, we’ve been helping with this relief effort spearheaded by Jorge and his foundation and (his wife) Laura,” Williams said. “It’s great to be a part of something like this where we can have the opportunity to be a contributor to a worthy cause like that.”

Wells and teammates were more than willing to reminisce about his rare feat (only 23 pitchers have accomplished it to this day).

“Perfect games aren’t easy to come by,” Wells said. “Obviously it’s teamwork. There’s a lot of luck involved. Right place, right time. Look at the greats that were out there that never threw a no hitter, never mind a perfect game, so to come back to New York and get embraced like that, It puts you on the map. New Yorkers embrace you when you do something like that regardless if they like you or not. These fans are great.”

“You never really see it in the first inning,” Williams said, recalling the historic day. “You really start seeing it in the fifth or sixth. You see the score line and there are no hits and you say, ‘Whoa. There’s something happening here.’ Two outs into the fifth is when I started thinking this could be something special and then I realized we had to be careful. Every pitch starts to matter a little more, every minute that passes, the excitement kept building up. Two outs in the ninth, all of a sudden, it’s if they hit it to you, do not drop it. It’s an exciting time.”

“Seeing the game develop in the eighth inning and getting close to what happened was something special,’ added Rivera. “It was an amazing experience and I was glad to be a part of that. The stadium was always electric but that day was amazing. Every pitch was important.”

Torre, a native Brooklynite who managed the Yankees from 1996-2007,  recalled how sharp Wells was.

“He was keeping those guys so off-balance; every time they looked for an off speed pitch, he was jamming them with the fastball,” he said. “He was just standing very tall on the mound. You could just read his face saying I dare you.”

“It’s great,” he added. “I don’t think you ever tire of reminiscing of the group we had. I always felt it was a special relationship. I treasure it and I feel blessed and I’m just appreciative of it. Everybody was so happy for him. It was a good clubhouse to be a part of.”

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