Jeff Nelson has witnessed 75-percent of the Yankees' perfect game history. In 1998 and 1999, the former major league reliever was a teammate of David Wells and David Cone, respectively, when they tossed their perfectos in the old Yankee Stadium. Just last week, Nelson was in Oakland to call Domingo German's gem against the Athletics, for the YES Network.
That's three of the four perfect games that've ever occurred in team history. Of course, the one historic game Nelson didn't witness came in 1956, when Don Larson dominated the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series. So, after experiencing these perfect moments on the field and in the booth, did Nelson fall into similar baseball superstitions?
"As a player, you never mention it. So I was like, OK, I'm not going to mention it," Nelson recently said on the "New York Accent" podcast. "A lot of people [believe in] that superstition stuff and the old 'Don't mention a no-hitter.' The radio side did mention it. But we danced around it...
"I'm like, 'Listen, I'm not going to be the first one saying it'... The superstition becomes more important as far as, 'Don't say anything different.' And I found myself doing the same thing in the booth."
Ultimately, the YES Network broadcast team did its job as German completed his masterpiece. Did Nelson think about referencing the games he witnessed as a teammate? "In 1998 and 1999 with Coney and Wells, everyone knew what they did," Nelson explained. "So [I didn't have to say], 'Hey, they had a perfect game back then. We might be witnessing the same thing.' We did a good job, you know, not saying the words."
The lore of Wells' perfection against the Minnesota Twins is he was hungover from the night before. The southpaw, who played 21 years in the big leagues, was known for his late nights and gregarious personality. But did the Yankees know he had some cobwebs when he arrived at the park the next morning?
"No, we had no idea," Nelson said. But he admitted that both Wells and Cone usually socialized the night before scheduled starts to lower their adrenaline. "I'm not saying they go out and get hammered all the time," Nelson explained. But. if they don't go out and settle themselves down, just to have a couple of drinks at nighttime, just to settle the nerves down, this is how they go about the way they start."
Nelson believes the ability to relax the nerves prior to starting is crucial for a winning pitcher, and this caused him to be a bullpen option. "That's perfect because they've had such great success doing that and I think it helps them not think about their start," Nelson said. "It's one of the things I couldn't do...
"I couldn't start because I'd be thinking about that start right away. And it just drives you nuts. "Nobody knew, but it wasn't [strange] him having a couple of drinks. [Wells] usually does that. But I guess it was a surprise finding out that he did until the early morning."
You can listen to and watch the entire conversation between DA and Nelson on "New York Accent" everywhere you get your podcasts, and on YouTube.