MURPHY: Wells Was A Favorite

Thomas Murphy, the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register, is a contributor to 'BAMA Magazine and Today he shares his thoughts on Jim Wells...

I'm going to miss Jim Wells.

I'm going to miss his sense of humor, that famously dry wit, his strange gait, those quirky hand gestures when he talked, his low-key disagreements with umpires.

When I boil it down, I've come to the conclusion that Wells was my favorite coach to cover since I joined up for this business in 1988. That includes a huge array of coaches, some of them (remarkably) NOT Alabama football coaches.

Wells spoke his mind, but he did it in an understated kind of way. He would openly wonder why a certain hitter couldn't lay off a curve in the dirt, or why his entire team couldn't muster up big innings against pitchers with ERAs in the sevens.

Remember the year Wade LeBlanc injured his shoulder in a celebration pileup early in the season? A few weeks later a reporter asked him how LeBlanc's recovery was going.

When you've been doing a lot of Mike Shula interviews you get conditioned for a response like: "Oh, Wade's got a good look in his eye. He's working hard. Everything's going well. We hope he's back out there really soon."

With Wells, evasion and bland talk weren't a part of the equation. To paraphrase, Wells said LeBlanc was rehabbing much like a young child. He's hurt and he wants everyone to know it. He needs to grow up.

Sometime around then, I facetiously suggested to Wells it would be great if he was the Alabama football coach.

He pulled a weird face and looked at me. No response. Baseball humor doesn't translate well to the football field.

One of my favorite Wells moments came during the 1999 NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa. The interview area that year was upstairs in the football facility across the road from Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

After one of Alabama's wins that postseason (there were a lot of them) Wells was in the right mood for some humor. The topic of favorite movies came up and Wells related that the original Airplane was one of his favorites. Then he started reeling off some of the catch phrases from that movie: "Roger, Roger," and "What's your vector, Victor?" and others.

The grown-up baseball coach could still mix it up like a kid. Maybe a little of that's inside all of us.

Wells was as serious about winning as Vince Lombardi or Nick Saban. He just kept things in perspective better than virtually all of these driven coaches and he could still pull the humor out of difficult situations.

Wells was the Abe Lemons of college baseball: a colorful quote nearly every time out.

Playing for Wells was a little bit different as I understand it. Some players don't take well to their head coach criticizing them in the press. But there was a method to Wells' ways. He was trying to prep them for the stage that's so much bigger than a baseball diamond: real life.

With Wells not around, we'll have one less person on this Alabama beat who can make us laugh. And we all need to laugh.

Yes, we're going to miss Jim Wells.

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