Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kerry Wood Was Special

Even though he will forever be remembered for one, Kerry Wood was much more important than his numbers. Everyone brings up his 20 strikeout game, and it is for good reason. Just look at this video. It's almost unfathomable that a pitcher could be that good. But he really was. He was not the best Cub of my lifetime, but he may have been the greatest. It's the reason articles like this one hit me on a level that most sports articles can't. When he retired, I really just wanted to read any interesting article I could find about him. Like many Cubs fans, I wanted to hang on to something that was gone.

He was the most Cub player of the last twenty years. Mark Grace is up there, but not quite. He went to Arizona and won a World Series, and as Cubs fans, we all felt great for him. But he never came back. Kerry left too. First to the Indians, and then traded to the Yankees. But he came back. Nobody ever comes back. Leaving the Cubs is supposed to be a blessing. Only Kerry would (pun unavoidable) come back to the curse.

He had opportunities to go other places, but he said he wanted to live in Chicago. Hell, he still could have gone to the White Sox for more money and lived in Chicago, but he couldn't do that. He hated the White Sox. And he really hated the fucking Cardinals. "Fuck those guys" was always the fan's attitude, but it's really something special when the players feel the same way.

And maybe it means a little more to people around my age. That 1998 Cubs team will forever remain my favorite team of all time, and this marks the end of that team in the major leagues. Kerry Wood was the last member to still be playing baseball. And a part of me always remembered that anytime I saw Wood take the mound. I will never have that experience again. I won't see a player and instantly be taken back to Sosa's historic season, Glenallen Hill hitting absolute bombs, Oh Henry! bars covering the field, Gary Gaetti crushing the ball after being a late season pickup, Rod Beck's heart attack inducing saves, hell, even Brant Brown's drop brings back nostalgia, but now it's gone. I won't watch life baseball and be taken back to that team.

Honestly, that sucks. But even though Kerry Wood's career may have not lived up to the hype, it certainly didn't suck. It was awesome. I came around about 20 years too late to see Ernie Banks, and although he'll never be Mr. Cub, Kerry Wood is my generation's version of it.

He put himself on the map in his fifth start because of his strikeouts. In a storybook ending, he finished his career like this.

We'll miss you, Kerry. Thanks for the memories.

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