War Hero: Kerry Wood

Expect to see this picture 4,000 times this weekend.
One of my favorite baseball players of all time retired today. Kerry Wood is done suiting up in his familiar blue pinstripes and will announce his retirement this afternoon. With an ERA north of 8.00 and struggling with health already, he probably knew that it was time. While I would have loved to see him pitch one last inning in front of the home crowd this weekend (especially against the Sox), I think #34 has given us our fair share of memories over the years.

You're going to see a lot of articles written about Wood over the next few days. Links to video of the 20 strikeout game. Talk about the incredible (and sometimes improbable) playoff pushes Kerry was a huge part of. Since all of these things will be covered ad nauseum by bigger and better blogs, I'd like to take the time to point out some of my personal favorite Kerry Wood memories.
  • During a crosstown game in 2003 (I think), Kerry was pitching at US Cellular and Paul Konerko was standing in. Wood threw him a slider, and Konerko dropped practically to his knees because it looked to be on a direct path to his head. Only after he had already bailed out did the pitch break down at a Bugs Bunny-esque angle and settle in for a strike. It was one of the single nastiest pitches I've ever seen, which was a microcosm of Kerry's ability when healthy and dealing in his prime. And it didn't hurt that it made a Sox player look foolish.
  • I was as crushed as any other Cubs fan when Wood lost Game 7 in 2003 to the Marlins. But the fact that he stood up and took 100% responsibility for the loss really showed how much of a gamer Kerry was. He wanted the ball in the biggest moments in the biggest games. Sometimes I think that with his mentality, Kerry Wood could have been one of the best closers of all time had he only focused on relief pitching from day 1. It might have led to less injuries.
  • What really made me love Wood was that in 2008, we had to basically push him out the door to leave the Cubs. Hendry told him we couldn't pay him even close to market value and he didn't want to insult him with a lowball offer. Kerry said he didn't care. I really wanted him to sign back with the Cubs on whatever offer they could afford, but I think the player's union would have had a shit fit if a $10 million a year player signed for 20% of that.
On the "Former and Current Cubs I'd Love to Get a Beer With" list, Kerry is right near the top with Mark Grace and Kyle Farnsworth (you know that guy would start some shit worth seeing every time he goes out drinking). I'm assuming Wood will get some kind of front office or coaching gig with the Cubs, so it's not like he'll be gone forever. He was tough as nails, didn't talk any bullshit and did his job well. I don't think we could have asked for more from Wood in his time in Chicago.

Adios, 34.

(Side note: If you really want to read a good summary of Kerry Wood's awesomeness, get Three Nights In August, one of the better recent books on baseball. Lots of good Wood stuff in there.)

Comments

Ginger Russ said…
Grace would be a dick to have a beer with, unless you are 20 year old Scottsdale chick and like to get Roethilsberger'd.