Major league Braves suspend Wellman three games

Updated: June 4, 2007, 9:10 PM ET
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- A major league meltdown by a minor league manager earned him a three-game suspension and worldwide fame on the Internet.

Combining bits of Earl Weaver, Billy Martin and Lou Piniella, the weekend tantrum by Double-A manager Phillip Wellman prompted his bosses at the Atlanta Braves to take action Monday.

The Mississippi Braves manager went wild Friday during his team's 7-6 loss at Chattanooga. His tirade took him on a tour of the diamond as he covered home plate with dirt, threw a base and crawled on his belly.

Wellman and the club declined comment, spokesman Nicholas Skinner said.

A Southern League executive declined to talk about a likely suspension or fine.

"The league president is working on that right now," said Lori Webb, vice president of operations. "Obviously appropriate action will be taken, but nothing will be released to the public about that."

Braves general manager John Schuerholz tried to make short work of the suspension Monday.

"We decided that was the appropriate action to take," he said. "That's it. It's history. Now, we're moving forward."

But in the Internet age, nothing is history. Wellman's outburst has been replayed dozens of times on television and thousands of times on the Web.

Braves manager Bobby Cox, who called Wellman one of his favorite people in the Atlanta organization, said he's seen the clip at least 50 times.

And Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said the meltdown caught him by surprise. In a few months under Wellman this season, he'd never seen the manager display such theatrics.

"It got a lot of laughs in here," Saltalamacchia said. "Maybe he went over the line a little bit. Who knows? But he's going to do whatever it takes for his players."

Wellman came storming out of the dugout after the plate umpire ejected pitcher Kelvin Villa for apparently using a foreign substance.

Wellman threw his hat, then began shouting and framing the face of the umpire with his hands about 6 inches apart.

After that, he got down on one knee, piled dirt on home plate and used a finger to outline the shape of the plate. He stalked to third base, pulled up the bag and walked toward second, then tossed third base into the outfield.

Then he dropped on his belly and pantomimed a military crawl to the edge of pitcher's mound, where he picked up the rosin bag. He pretended it was a grenade, pulled an imaginary pin with his teeth and launched it toward the plate umpire, hitting his left foot.

Wellman motioned that he was ejecting the umpire, picked up second base, walked into the outfield and picked up the bag he'd tossed. He walked toward the outfield gate with both bases.

Before leaving the field, he turned, blew kisses to the wildly cheering crowd, waved his fist in salute, then left.

ESPN played extensive segments of the tirade through the weekend and the video has been viewed more than 61,000 times on YouTube.com.

"Phil's a great guy," Cox said. "He's outstanding. You used to see that all the time in the minors. The game's changed now. You don't do that anymore."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press