Has it really been 15 years? Apparently and with that, Kerry Wood said goodbye to his decade-plus major league career on May 18th. My generation’s Nolan Ryan appropriately ended it where it all started – at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.
Grant it. How many of you were shocked to know Wood was still even playing?
He fanned White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo on three pitches in the eighth inning and with that, the door closed on a career that included one of the most memorable performances in major league baseball history. On May 6, 1998, a 20-year old Kerry Wood, in just his fifth big league start, struck out twenty and threw a one-hit complete game to beat the Astros 2-0. He was only the third player in major league baseball to do so.
Wait! Are you trying to tell me that Kerry Wood is my age? Man, that cigarette habit he picked up has not been kind to him.
Seriously, Wood had sixteen stints on the disabled list. That’s an astounding 946 days taken from his career. In 2007, he switched from a starter to reliever in order to preserve his arm. Grant it. He was no Mariano Rivera, but he became the only pitcher in baseball history with at least seventy-five wins, fifty saves and ten strikeouts per nine innings.
Although Wood made a significant impact on the modern game, he is not Cooperstown bound. He was on the disabled list way too much. Still, my jaded soul recognizes the rock star Wood was (and is). You have to give it up to the Cubs (and I never give it up to the Cubs). They sent him out in appropriate fashion.
It was Wood’s choice to retire mid-season. There’s no solid answer why, but you can put two and two together. He didn’t have enough left to hang for one full season. Why not go out on top?
The Cubs plan was to get Wood in one last game in a spot he is normally used and afterward the right-hander would walk off into the sunset. Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk (stepping in for a ejected Dale Sveum) ended up improvising. He first thought he would use Wood for consecutive right-handed batters. Then he thought that since the pitcher’s spot was due up sixth after that half inning he might even let Wood get those two outs and go back for more the next inning. But when the opportunity arose in the 8th inning to relieve starter Jeff Samardzija and Viciedo came to bat, the time was now.
After an ending that couldn’t be written better by W.P. Kinsella, Wood partied his retirement into fruition with former Blackhawks player Chris Chelios and actual rock star Eddie Vedder. Viral video captured the trio singing a song by The Band at Lincoln Park’s Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap.
Kerry Wood went out, as he came in to his major league baseball career, in true rock star fashion. I’m sure that any team would welcome him in the future, especially as a pitching coach.
Oh, if you are wondering, even with the addition of Pearl Jam’s front man, karaoke is still pretty lousy.