Baseball history is absolutely littered with bench-clearing brawls and hilarious manager ejections. Nolan Ryan beating Robin Ventura’s face to a pulp will never get old, and even the Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor slugfest is already a classic.
As far as ejections go, some managers make it an art form. “Sweet” Lou Piniella was famous for his anything-but-sweet base-throwing and dirt-kicking tirades during MLB games. Longtime Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox was tossed out of a record 161 Major League Baseball games in his managerial career, and his face looked like it was about to explode in every one of them.
But I don’t care who you are or what team you rooted for, there is only one ejection in baseball lore deserving of “greatest baseball ejection ever” title. It had everything from chucking all three bases to covering home plate in dirt and even throwing the pitcher’s rosin bag… like a grenade.
There’s only one Phillip Wellman, ladies and gentleman, and he owns baseball’s wildest meltdown.
Phillip Wellman’s Wild Meltdown
Phillip Wellman was managing the Class AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, the Mississippi Braves, in 2007. In one game on June 1, against the Chattanooga Lookouts, he erupted and put on a masterful ejection performance.
Wellman was thrown out of the game by the home plate umpire for protesting his pitcher being ejected for using a foreign substance. Upon the umpire’s signal, Wellman stormed out of the dugout and launched his hat at the feet of the official. After Wellman gave the umpire what was surely a profanity-laced earful, he headed toward home plate. Like a child in tee ball, he covered the plate in dirt and drew a new version for the umpire.
Wellman was only getting started.
After screaming in the third base umpire’s face, he uprooted third base and flung it toward centerfield like one would throw a discus. Then, Wellman produced one of the most creative acts anyone has ever seen on a baseball field: he army crawled his way to the back of the mound, pretended to bite and toss the rosin bag like a hand grenade at the home plate umpire.
Wellman concluded his show by swiping second base and leaving the infield with both bases in hand. As he headed for the exit beyond the outfield wall, he gave a farewell kiss to the fans at AT&T Field and wrapped up the greatest ejection in the history of baseball.
“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.”
ESPN called it the No. 1 meltdown in sports history in 2009. The manager of the Mississippi Braves was given just a three-game suspension for the blow-up.
“We decided that was the appropriate action to take,” former Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. “That’s it. It’s history. Now, we’re moving forward.”
Former MLB catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was playing in the game during Wellman’s tirade and defended his manager’s actions.
“It got a lot of laughs in here,” Saltalamacchia told ESPN in 2007. “Maybe he went over the line a little bit. Who knows? But he’s going to do whatever it takes for his players.”
Where is Phillip Wellman Now?
Unbelievably, Wellman wasn’t fired over the meltdown. His career wasn’t over. In fact, he’s still managing in 2021.
Wellman currently manages the Texas League’s Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. In 2019, the Sod Poodles won the league under his direction and he won manager of the year. Two years prior he won Texas League Manager of the Year while heading the San Antonio Missions.
Wellman hit 36 home runs over his brief MiLB career in the 1980s and has been managing minor league baseball teams for almost 30 years now, adding thousands of minor league games to his resume.
After the Mississippi Braves declined to renew his contract following the 2010 season, he left the Southern League and joined the Double-A Springfield Cardinals as a hitting coach for three seasons. He landed the managerial job for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers before working for a trucking company afterward. He returned to minor league baseball in 2016, where he still coaches.
To this day, Phillip Wellman’s ejection in 2007 is the single greatest in professional baseball history and it’s not even close.
This post was originally published on March 13, 2020, but a meltdown like this deserves enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.