I am watching the rebroadcast of CSN’s Kerry Wood 20 K Game with Kerry Commentary (sooo….a rebroadcast of a rebroadcast?). Anyway, at the end, David Kaplan is asking Kerry if his kids know about the game, and Kerry goes that they haven’t seen it yet - that they’re too young so they don’t really grasp the significance of it right now. But he mentioned how his son Justin is justtt starting to get into baseball, and he can’t wait to show him the video tape of the game because it’s going to be such a “cool” moment.
i’m not crying,
it’s just raining i have a THUNDERSTORM on my face.
Farewell Kid K
A Texas High School phenom out of MacArthur High School in Irving Texas, Kerry Wood was selected 4th overall in the 1995 Amateur draft. As a 20-year-old rookie he delivered one of the greatest pitching performances of all time, a 20-strikeout game earning him the nickname “Kid K.” On May 6, 1998, he allowed only one hit, a third-inning single by Ricky Gutierrez, in a 2-0 victory over Houston Astros.
As the game progressed and with rain falling, Wood’s stuff was never better. Throwing fastballs at 100 mph and with his slider dipping around the Houston bats, Wood didn’t walk a batter, hit one with a pitch and gave up that lone infield single on a ball Cubs third baseman Kevin Orie couldn’t come up with.
Wood said his slider was his main weapon that day as he struck out the side in the first, fifth, seventh and eighth innings, fanned two each in the second, fourth and ninth, and one each in the third and the sixth. Wood threw 122 pitches, 84 for strikes, and got a congratulatory phone call from Roger Clemens afterward.
Doing something like this in your fifth major league start is a sure way to get national fame. He was invited to appear on the morning national TV shows. T-shirts reading “We Got Wood” started to appear, double entendre and all; I myself bought my jersey shirt and Wood continued to dominate the National League through the rest of the year… well, at least until the end of August, when his high pitch counts and hard throwing began to catch up with him and the Cubs shut him down with elbow trouble, trouble that had likely begun as far back as that 175-pitch doubleheader he threw in high school.
Wood threw across his body, causing an abrupt snap as his shoulder crashed into his chest, and analysts predicted that motion would eventually lead to an injury. It didn’t help that Cubs manager Jim Riggleman had Wood run up some high pitch counts that rookie season — 133, 129, 128, 123, 123, eight games of 120-plus in all.
He came back to throw game three of the NLDS vs. the Braves on October 3 at Wrigley Field; leaving behind 1-0 (vs.former Cub Greg Maddux) after throwing five innings of three-hit, one-run ball, he took the loss as the bullpen couldn’t keep it close and the Cubs lost 6-2.
Wood was named the NL Rookie of the Year — and not long afterward, had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 1999 season.
Coming back a month into the 2000 season, on a Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, Kerry did another thing that might have someday just been part of his “legend” — on his first at-bat back, he hit a two-run homer, and pitched six strong innings in an 11-1 win over the Astros.
He made only 23 starts in 2000, and only 28 in 2001, struggling to regain his 1998 form.
Finally, in 2002 he threw a full season for a terrible Cubs team — to which Bleeding Cubbie Blue attests in February 2005 how Wood’s 12-11 record was deceiving, as the bullpen blew seven leads for him; he could have been a 19-game winner on a better team.
At last, both Kerry Wood and the Cubs hit their stride in 2003, which, of course, we’d all remember a lot more fondly if the Cubs could have got those last five damned outs. But before that, Cubs manager Dusty Baker worked him hard that year. He threw 141 pitches in a May victory against the Cardinals, 130 in a 1-0 shutout against the Marlins in July. In his final six starts of the regular season, he threw 125, 120, 122, 114, 125 and 122 pitches.
Wood had almost singlehandedly put the Cubs in both the postseason and the NLCS; in September 2003 he was 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings; he walked only 13 and struck out 47 that month, and then he pitched the Cubs into the NLCS with a gutty eight-inning, seven-K outing in game five of the Division Series vs. the Braves.
And he could have pitched the Cubs into the World Series in game seven of the NLCS — only to fail, despite homering. After the game a tearful Wood, a standup guy, took responsibility for the loss, faced reporters till far past the time most players would have hidden in the whirlpool, and at least for me, cemented his place as the current face of the franchise.
Which makes it all the more heartbreaking that he’s suffered so many injuries, ruining the three seasons from 2004-06. He had a decent 2004, but made only 22 starts, and in 2005 was placed in the bullpen before being shut down (and in his eleven relief appearances he was lights-out; in 12 IP, he allowed four hits, walked five, gave up no runs, and struck out 17, giving rise to the notion that he could eventually become an elite closer). An attempt to return to the rotation in 2006 also failed; after four mediocre starts Kerry was again shut down.
He signed an incentive-laden contract to remain a Cub in 2007, and has always said that he feels badly that he was not able to contribute more. In 2008, he was a key contributor to the 97-win NL Central champions; he matched his uniform number by posting 34 saves, having an outstanding 1.085 WHIP, and being named to his second All-Star team.
After the season, though, he was told he wasn’t wanted and to “go get some money”, which the Cubs apparently didn’t want to pay. With a brief stint with the Cleveland Indians marred by inconsistencies on health and performance he was traded to the New York Yankees in 2010, and was part of their bullpen as a setup man for Mariano Rivera as they advanced to the ALCS.
After the season, it was thought he’d sign with a team to close again, or stay with the Yankees, where he was familiar with manager Joe Girardi, a catcher for a couple of years with him with the Cubs, and new Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Instead, the passing of Ron Santo triggered the events that brought Wood back to the Cubs. Kerry had some brief conversations with Jim Hendry at Santo’s funeral and then longer discussions the same day at a fundraiser for Ryan Dempster’s foundation about returning. A few days later he was signed to a far-below-market value $1.5 million deal (with incentives) and the promise that he’d be a Cub for life.
Last season, he went 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 relief appearances before shutting it down because of a tear in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery. In January, Wood agreed to play for the Cubs again for $3 million — double his 2011 pay — with a $3 million club option for 2013.
Wood went on the disabled list this season with shoulder fatigue and had struggled all year. His frustrations were evident when, after a bad outing against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field, he tossed his cap and glove into the stands.
Fittingly, the man we knew as “Kid K” struck out the last batter he’ll ever face and retired at the age of 34, ending a career that was eye-popping at times but hampered by injuries. Wood struck out Dayan Viciedo on three pitches, the last one a swing and a miss, in the eighth inning before he was replaced by bench coach Jamie Quirk — manager Dale Sveum had been ejected earlier. His teammates joined Wood on the mound to congratulate him.
There were two outs in the eighth inning when the crowd of 34,937 chanted, “Kerry! Kerry!” as Wood walked off the mound for the 341st and final time as a Cub. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” blared from the organ. Wood hugged his son as he reached the dugout, then lifted the boy into his arms. Moments later, he came out for a curtain call and waved his cap to the fans.
You may or may not know that Wood and his wife, Sarah, have worked tirelessly to build the Wood Family Foundation into an effective and meaningful nonprofit organization that helps kids.
More specifically, the foundation “strives to be an advocate for children in the Chicago community, inspiring others to join them in their mission of giving children the resources they need to succeed.” Two early initiatives are the funding of a playroom for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the securing of donations of school supplies, clothing and toys for underserved children in the area.
Only game I recall seeing him pitch in person was a 1998 game against the Philadelphia Phillies. In a 9-4 victory went 7 1/3 innings, 11 strikeouts and had his first career home run. The home run was probably the most impressive thing that I remember from that night. Always tough to get tickets on days that he started.
Kerry Wood ends his career with an 86-75 record, 11 complete games, 5 shut-outs, 1,581 strikeouts (1,469 strikeouts with the Cubs third in franchise history), 63 saves and $70.8 million in earnings. Kerry Wood didn’t live up to the Nolan Ryan hype, but he did finish his career with a better winning pct than Ryan (.534 vs .526). Wood averaged 10.32 strikeouts per 9 innings in his career, the second-highest total in MLB history behind Randy Johnson’s 10.61 mark (minimum 1,300 innings pitched). At 134 games the fastest to reach 1,000 strikeouts in MLB history (in appearances). With 853 innings pitched the fastest to reach 1,000 strikeouts in MLB history. Tied MLB record with Roger Clemens with strikeouts in a 9-inning game: 20 on May 6, 1998 against the Houston Astros.
Nobody expects a statue of No. 34 at Clark and Addison, but Wood retires as an enduring symbol of unfulfilled potential, the perfect Cubs icon of any era, a guy you look at and instantly wonder what might have been.
Starlin saying goodbye to Kerry. One thought: That is how I would look like saying goodbye to Kerry. Second thought: I know Starlin still looks like he’s a young’n, but, sheesh, this looks like a father giving a send-off to his son, sheesh.
"You come back because you love the game of baseball."
Remember how hours ago I said I wasn’t going to cry about Kerry?
Uh….forget I said anything.
So whenever some Kerry Wood discussion comes up, this inevitably comes up:
"Why are you celebrating this guy? His whole career is just mediocre and is the poster child for wasted potential! You all hold him in such high esteem!"
Let’s get this fact out of the way: Yes, Kerry Wood is the poster child for wasted potential. No one ever pretends otherwise. I wish I could find the exact quote, but I remember Mark DeRosa saying that he always felt the fans watched Kerry with a mixed bag of emotions: appreciation while feeling cheated as they ran through all the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.
But if anything could rival the epic-ness that is Kerry Wood’s injury history (and it really is), it could be Kerry’s greater moments on the field. In his fifth career start, he pitched one of the greatest games in major league history. He followed up a good 2003 season by winning Game 5 of the NLDS and giving the Cubs their first playoff series win since 1945 (sigh). His homer in Game 7 of the NLCS is one of the baseball highs of my life; and yet despite getting rocked, Kerry stuck around and accepted all the blame. And with him and a then-excellent Carlos Marmol, the Cubs had one of the more exciting bullpens to compliment their fantastic 2008 team. And, as cheesy and silly as this is, but Kerry always liked being a Cub. You can make all the jokes you can about how no one hates winning more than Kerry Wood (and go ahead, it’s all in good fun; I can and still will!), but there really is something that is touching to see guys stick with their teams and cities through thick and thin. Baseball fans, maybe just people in general, are saps like that.
I first thought Kerry was going to retire in 2006. I remember a Suntimes cover from that summer: Kerry sitting on the bench, dejected, headline implying that maybe it was time to hang it up. And I admittedly cried thinking about it; Kerry Wood’s rookie year is the first year I really started watching baseball and the Chicago Cubs, he was one of my first favorite ballplayers, and no one ever enjoys seeing a favorite player going out when it’s not on their terms. And while I suppose that right now is not ideally what Kerry had in mind - it’s another injury-plagued season so far, and his pitching has just been horrific to watch - it’s a little comforting to know that Kerry’s calling it on his own this time.
So no tears from me this time, but I can still be sad about it. I’m not going to go crazy and overvalue what his career really was or call him one of the greatest such-and-such of all time. But he was a great, nice guy who had some outstanding moments for the Cubs and etched some of my favorite moments in my baseball fandom history. So I don’t care for any negative talk today or any mocking for how I’ll feel about Kerry today. He was one of my favorite players, and I’ll miss him.
My latest chart for Getting Blanked looks at the impressive 20-strikeout games by Roger Clemens, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood.