It wasn’t always sunny in Philadelphia for Turk Wendell.
After the Mets traded Wendell to the Phillies during the 2001 MLB season, Wendell struggled mightily. He had a 7.47 ERA over 21 appearance for the Phillies that year while making roughly $3 million. He had an elbow problem that required surgery, costing him the entire 2002 season. At the time, Phillies fans were so furious with Wendell’s performance that, he says, fans sent him death threats.
“Well I mean, I’m not going to sugar coat that either. When I came over to the Phillies, I mean, I sucked,” Wendell said on “Amazin’ But True,” The Post’s Mets podcast. “I was getting paid a lot of money so I’m trying to push myself to honor the amount of money that I was making. You know, my elbow was sore and I’m not really gonna say anything and that’s just probably my stupid competitiveness, too. I try to tell kids today play the game smarter, not harder. But I want to live up to the contract that I’m being paid. So I’m not pitching well and I’m getting fan mail that says they wish I’d die, that if they saw me, they’d kill me, they wish I was in the Twin Towers when they went down. All this kind of crazy stuff…and you know getting all kinds of different death threats, thinking what the heck? I’m just here to play ball.”
That made Wendell’s adjustment from New York difficult, the now-53-year-old says.
“I shouldn’t classify that as all the fans, but I came off the field in one particular game and my elbow kind of just blew up and I blew a game against the Braves, I think it was,” Wendell said. “The media was in front of me at my locker and they said you know what about the fans. And they’re yelling at me as I’m coming off the field and I kind of motioned to them, ‘If you don’t like it then go home, no one’s making you sit here and watch me suck.’ So they said, ‘What about the fans?’ And I said ‘You wanna see what kind of fans you’ve got?’ And I turned around and I read them one of those letters. They all sat there in awe and said ‘I can’t believe people actually sent that.’”
After returning from injury in 2003, Wendell bounced back with a 3.38 ERA in 56 appearances for Philadelphia. He said he was asked by reporters if he was happy about the fans finally being on his side.
“And I said ‘Not really, if they’re true fans they should boo me now, too. They shouldn’t just jump on the bandwagon,’” Wendell said. “If you don’t like somebody you don’t like somebody. Don’t just like em’ cause you’re doing well and hate em’ cause you’re doing bad.”
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Wendell, a superstitious pitcher who was known for slamming the rosin bag on the mound, was acquired by the Mets in 1997 and was a key member of their bullpen during the team’s playoff runs in 1999 and 2000.