<
>

Major league Braves suspend Wellman three games

6/4/2007

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."