13 years ago today
Phillip Wellman has enjoyed a 36-year career in professional baseball, first as a prospect in the Braves' system and then as a manager for several minor league teams, but he’ll always be remembered for one monumental blowup on June 1, 2007.
Wellman was managing the Double A Mississippi Braves at the time, who were playing the Chattanooga Lookouts that night. Pitcher Kelvin Villa was ejected for using a foreign substance, and the rest is history. Wellman charged out of the dugout and expressed his displeasure in a number of creative ways—most memorably by tossing the rosin bag like a grenade at the feet of the umpire.
The tirade earned Wellman a three-game suspension from his big league bosses but he managed the Mississippi team for three more seasons.
What’s interesting about the legacy of the clip (and maybe only to me, because I work in media) is how it spread. This was a viral video before videos went viral on social media. An Associated Press story about Wellman’s suspension, dated June 4, points out how widely the meltdown spread by saying “the video has been viewed more than 61,000 times on YouTube.com.”
Even now, the original video uploaded by Chattanooga’s WDEF News 12 has been viewed fewer than 940,000 times. (A copy posted by a channel called “Boring Vids” has 1.8 million views.) But Wellman’s eruption was played numerous times on ESPN in the days after and has remained in heavy rotation on the network. Here is a 2011 “Top 10 Sports Meltdowns” segment in which Wellman comes in at No. 1.
Wellman had a reputation for blowing his lid before that fateful night in Chattanooga, and he remains prone to outbursts of on-field rage.
Here he is in 2016 as the manager of the San Antonio Missions repeating his signature move of literally stealing a base.
Wellman’s meltdowns might not be as violent or as numerous as other minor league managers' (seriously, check out the repertoire of Joe Mikulik) but the 2007 video will live with him forever.
“It’s obviously not my proudest moment," Wellman told ESPN in 2012, “but it was the moment caught on tape. I’ve never run from it. It is what it is, and I can’t lie about it because it’s right there on video for all to see.
“We all make mistakes in our lives. … You’ve got to put it behind you and learn from your mistakes and go on. I didn’t even know what YouTube was when that happened. I know what YouTube is now.”
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