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To Wells, the Babe always No. 1

To Wells, the Babe always No. 1

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Babe Ruth is about to slip to No. 3 on baseball's all-time home run list, which, ironically, is the same number that Red Sox left-hander David Wells wore in honor of his idol during the first two months of the 2005 season.

But to Wells, that place behind Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds in the record books means nothing.

You can't tell Boomer that anyone is ahead of Ruth -- in anything related to the game of baseball.

"I think you're going to hear more about Babe Ruth than you do about Barry Bonds, even to this day," said Wells. "That's all you hear about is Babe Ruth. He's the man that saved the game of baseball. How can you go any higher than that?"

Wells started idolizing Ruth at a young age and has never stopped.

"When I was a kid, I was just infatuated with him and what he's done for the game of baseball. On and off the field," he said, with a mischievous grin on his face.

Go to certain parts of Boomer's San Diego home, and you'll probably think it is a second Babe Ruth museum.

What Bambino memorabilia does Wells have? The better question would be, "What doesn't he have?"

"All of it -- you name it, I have it," Wells said. "Hat, bat, jerseys, gloves, baseballs, his coat."

Though the Sultan of Swat is best known for his jaw-dropping power in an age when home runs were basically being invented on the fly, Wells is just as impressed by his pitching exploits.

Ruth was a left-handed ace for the Red Sox from 1915 to 1918, going 78-40 over that span. In all, Ruth went 94-46 with a 2.21 ERA as a pitcher. Wells has no doubt that Ruth also could have been a Hall of Fame hurler if he had stayed on that path.

"He could have just stayed pitching and played outfield the days he didn't pitch," Wells said. "[Heck], he'd have won 300, 400 games, then nobody could touch him."

Wells, a lefty with a similarly rotund physique, simply marvels at the Bambino.

"It's amazing, he was awesome at both," said Wells. "He got to hit back then. He wasn't really a home run hitter in the beginning, but, you know, things changed. When he started swatting, that became his love instead of pitching. He was always able to do that. and I think that, when you can put up numbers like that with the bat, you don't need to pitch."

During Wells' four years with the Yankees, he was a frequent visitor to Monument Park, where he could always pay homage to the Babe.

Even now, as a visitor, he still takes the few steps it takes to get from the bullpen to tip his cap to Ruth.

"Yesterday, when I went out and threw my bullpen, I went out there," said Wells during Boston's early-May trip to Yankee Stadium. "I always stare and smile at it."

He is at peace with Ruth falling to third on the home run list.

"Records are made to be broken," he said. "That's what they're there for, for someone else to come along and break it. It's a different ballgame. Barry's played a long, long time, and he's put up a lot of good numbers. He's entitled to pass him, because he's put in the time. You put in longevity, eventually you're going to creep up on some numbers."

But Wells doesn't see anyone truly creeping in on Ruth. Not now, not ever.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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