What could have been, but never was.
The Cubs lost to the Sox at Wrigley Field and over 7,000 tickets went unsold. But none of that mattered yesterday.
All that mattered is that Kerry Wood went out the same way he came in, striking out a batter. He made his MLB debut on April 12, 1998 and struck out the first man he faced. A little more than fourteen years later, he called it a career, striking out the final batter he faced, Dayan Viciedo. In between there were another 1,579 strikeouts. Unfortunately, it seem like there were also 1,579 trips to the disabled list.
The Cubs #1 draft pick in 1996 moved through the system quickly and was in the majors in less than two years. He burst onto the national scene on May 6, 1998 by turning in one of the most dominating performances in MLB history. He not only struck out 20, but allowed only one hit, a scratch infield hit, and walked no one. The Astros, who would go on to win 102 games that season and were a great hitting team, were completely over-matched.
But by September he was on the shelf due to elbow problems, and he would have Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 1999 season. From that point on, he would show occasional glimpses of greatness, but could never consistently put it all together.
Despite all the setbacks, Kerry Wood was a stand-up guy. The Texan became a year-round Chicagoan. He married a Chicago girl and is raising his family here. And Cub fans embraced him. He took less money to come back to the Cubs in 2011 and was welcomed back with open arms. He was re-signed for 2012 and was to be the 8th inning guy.
He couldn't hold the lead on opening day and took the loss in game 2. It was obvious that he was done. On May 8th he blew another lead and took his second loss. On his way back to the dugout he tossed his hat and mitt into the crowd, as his frustration boiled over. He knew his career was over, too.
It was an emotional scene yesterday as he recorded his final out and then walked back to the dugout. If the ovation the crowd gave him didn't get to you, seeing his little boy run out of the dugout and give his dad a hug did. I'll bet there wasn't a dry eye in the park. Even the Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson choked up on the air.
I've got over 170 Kerry Wood cards and I started to pick out my favorites for this post. Then I gave up and decided to show them all. The cards are in chronological order, starting with a Bowman 1997 and ending with his Topps base card from 2012.
Thank you Kerry Wood. Your arm may have failed you, but your character and integrity never did.